On Sunday, June 29th, my story in the form of the film “Documented” will be told to the nation on CNN. A large part of my story is that I haven’t seen my mother since August 1993.
Telling my Mama’s story was not something I was eager to do. Yet halfway through filming “Documented,” it became abundantly clear that I couldn't possibly tell my story and not include Mama, who lives in the Philippines. Questions abound. As an undocumented American--”illegal” to many people--how do I film my Mama and direct the shoot if I cannot leave the U.S. legally? (If I leave, there's no guarantee that I will be allowed back. My mother has been denied a tourist visa and awaits a family visa to come to the U.S.) And, the toughest question of all: Can I trust myself to tell my own story? Making this film became more painful, more confrontational, and wholly personal. Mama put me on a plane to America at age 12, and I have not seen her in person since. While editing the film, I saw more of her than I have in the past 20 years.
In the process of documenting myself, I ended up documenting Mama—and the sacrifices of parents who make America what it is, then and now. And in telling my own specifically universal story, I hope it incites others to tell their stories too.
When I was growing up and when I got to be an adult and a working professional, all I wanted to do was provide for her and give her money every month---that was it. I didn’t want to complicate that. I felt like talking to her on the phone or writing her was just too painful. And then I realized that if I really wanted to show what this issue of immigration was about, I needed to show the public what pain was. A really smart filmmaker recently told me that we learn a lot by feeling, and I would hope that anyone who sees the film and sees my relationship with my mother evolve, would understand what’s at stake with this issue.
That's why we're so excited to be joining with momsrising to ask every mom to host a watch party on June 29th with their friends, neighbors, and family. Click here for more information and to register.