It’s an uncertain and dangerous time for immigrants in this country. With immigration getting so much media attention, we sometimes focus more on statistics and laws than the immigrant experience itself. These films, documentaries, and TV shows shine light on both the struggles of immigration as well as how such seemingly insurmountable obstacles can still hold hope for the future.
Centering on the unlikely encounter of a young girl escaping Honduras with her family and a rough and tumble gang member with his clan, Sin Nombre takes a close up look at the complex nature of immigration. Stark differences are put aside as the two journey through to Mexico with hopes of crossing the southern border of the United States. Described by critics as “sensitive, insightful and deeply authentic,” and with a 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, you won’t want to miss this. It’s available for viewing on iTunes and Amazon video.
Made in LA
This Emmy Award winning documentary chronicles the story of three Latina immigrants fighting not only for their right to stay in the country, but also for equal rights in the workplace. Maria, Maura, and Lupe take on the world of corporate clothing and sweatshops as they protest Forever 21’s unfair working conditions.
Maria Full of Grace
This 2004 film isn’t afraid to tackle the darker side of immigration, and the desperate lengths so many are willing to go to. Although she is only 17—and also pregnant—Maria is faced with the difficult choice of becoming a drug trafficker to support her family. Catalina Sandino Moreno was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar based on an intense and passionate performance, in just her first feature film role.
Detailing the trials and tribulations of a brother and sister as they flee Guatemala, this 1983 film makes the dramatic landscapes of Guatemala and Mexico as central a part of the story as the characters themselves. Nominated for the Best Screenplay Oscar, Roger Ebert calls this “a ‘Grapes of Wrath’ for our time.”
Taking a bit of a different stance than the other stories on our list, Entre nos focuses more on issues of family dynamics and assimilation after already having immigrated to the United States. For a newly reunited Colombian family in Queens, the harsh realities of life together in a new city becomes the main obstacle—where the mother and her two children must resourcefully fend for themselves.
Winner of the Oscar for Best Documentary Short in 2013, Inocente offers hope and a positive message for undocumented immigrants. The main character, Inocente, overcomes both homelessness and citizenship challenges through the creation of vibrant and optimistic art—distancing herself from her much darker past.
In The Country We Love
Though the show is still under development at CBS, you can get a head start with Diane Guerrero’s memoir of the same title—In The Country We Love: My Family Divided. Guerrero will star in the show, which loosely parallels her own childhood. Having to confront her parents’ deportation to Colombia as a teenager, Guerrero found herself having to grow up much more quickly than expected—and forced to confront situations that many can only dream of. It’s another way that the Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin star can further her work on advancing immigrant rights.
Much like the play Blind Spot at the Repertorio Español, this film focuses on how family relationships are impacted by false promises of citizenship after joining the military. Each family member must face difficult choices resulting from their son’s decision to enlist.
With an extensive career in TV production, Greg Berlanti gets a bit more serious in his latest project for CBS. The series, titled Casa, follows six siblings who adapt to life on their own after their parents get deported. It’s part of a trend where immigration is becoming a more serious and respected topic in TV.