Limbo: A Story from the Hearts and Mouths of Undocumented Young People

Limbo: A Story from the Hearts and Mouths of Undocumented Young People

Limbo is the new documentary short film directed by Eliot Rausch, created in association with Phos Pictures, which had its World Premier in New York City earlier this week. Previously, Rausch won the Best Documentary Award and the Grand Prize at the 2010 Vimeo Festival + Awards, for his short film Last Minutes with Oden. After winning the 25K Grand Prize Grant from the Vimeo Awards, Director Eliot Rausch partnered with Producer Mark Schwartz and the Dreamers of Los Angeles to create Limbo.

The emotionally moving 19-minute documentary short film exposes the lives of three undocumented students, who are living in Los Angeles without legal status. Without ever before having touched a camera, the students were gifted with a small video camera and provided with a half-day of training. They were asked to film everyday for three months. Through their lens, this is a story from the hearts and mouths of the undocumented.

Limbo: A Story from the Hearts and Mouths of Undocumented Young People

From Last Minutes with Oden to Limbo

Rausch won the Grand Prize at the first Vimeo Festival + Awards, held in late 2010, for his documentary short film Last Minutes with Oden. The film documents ex-convict Jason Wood’s emotions as he must euthanize his beloved dog, Oden, who had been suffering from cancer. Oden is a poignant, deeply touching chronicle of love between human and pet, which has been viewed on Vimeo more than 2.5 million times.

After winning the award, Rausch said that he began to feel guilty. “I think the project was exploiting the life of a friend and his suffering,” he said. So, in the months that followed, Rausch came up with the idea to use his $25,000 Grand Prize money to create a film that might empower his subjects, rather than simply chronicling their struggles.

From Last Minutes with Oden to Limbo

Update:

Hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children will be able to obtain work permits and be safe from deportation under a new policy announced on Friday by the Obama administration.

Read President Obama’s announcement in the White House Rose Garden on Friday afternoon here.

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The Children’s Defense Fund: Wilson Beat the Odds

The Children’s Defense Fund: Wilson Beat the Odds

Wilson Beat the Odds is an inspiring, thoughtfully compassionate documentary short film written and directed by the award-winning filmmaker Mark Jacobs.  Over the course of Jacobs’ career as both a journalist and film director, he’s produced numerous documentaries centered on adolescent obstacles that affect both the educational and developmental aspects of becoming a responsible adult in today’s society.  Targeted issues have included drug and alcohol abuse, racism and stress.

This documentary arose from a request to make a film about the Children’s Defense Fund’s “Beat The Odds” scholarship program, specifically about a young high school student named Wilson Khuav.  Wilson’s family members were immigrants from Cambodia, survivors of the brutally murderous Khmer Rouge regime.  Not too long after settling in southern California, Wilson’s family found themselves unexpectedly homeless.

Nevertheless, Wilson was determined to graduate from high school and take full advantage of everything that school has to offer.  Despite having to live in a motel and being forced to deal with the daily challenge of overcoming hunger, Wilson managed to maintain a 3.7 GPA and also received numerous scholastic awards.  In recognition of those remarkable achievements, Wilson was nominated for the Children’s Defense Fund’s “Beat The Odds” scholarship and was one of five young adults presented with a $10,000 scholarship award.

The Children’s Defense Fund: Wilson Beat the Odds

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Grief: A Lonely Misery That Could Flood the Whole World

Grief: A Lonely Misery That Could Flood the Whole World

To whom shall I tell my grief?  Misery tears my heart more cruelly than ever.
Can I not find among the crowd of thousands someone who will listen to me?

Grief is a deeply moving short film directed by the German filmmaker Daniel Lang, which is adapted from Anton Chekhof’s short story, Misery.  On a rainy and gloomy night, a battered taxi drifts through the streets of Berlin.  Iona, a Russian immigrant, is behind the wheel.  His son had supported the family by driving the taxi until his sudden, unexpected death the previous week.  Now Iona has taken his son’s place, trying hard to make his way as a blundering taxi driver.  But what he really wants is to find someone, anyone to talk to about his son’s death.

Grief: A Lonely Misery That Could Flood the Whole World

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Born Free: A Powerful Stand Against Genocide

Born Free: A Powerful Stand Against Genocide

Show me a country where the bombs had to fall
Show me the ruins of buildings so tall
And I’ll show you a young land
With many reasons why
There but for fortune, go you or I
You or I

-Phil Ochs

Born Free is a new music video by M.I.A., which is foremost a starkly compelling short film directed by Romain Gavras.  Gravas is a co-founder of Kourtrajmé, an art and filmmaking collective in Paris known for provocative explorations of contemporary social issues.  Born Free is the harrowing tale of a company of shock troops in an unnamed American city that is rounding up “ginger” headed children and adolescents, and transporting them to a desolate brushland for execution.

The film provides a startling metaphor for  the very real pictures we see in ongoing news coverage of murderous violence occurring in places where we don’t actually live.  But in our current political atmosphere, with the increasing influence of right-wing groups advocating ever-more draconian social policies, those images are  rapidly coming home to America.

Born Free: A Powerful Stand Against Genocide

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An Angel in Queens

Jorge Muñoz: An Angel in Queens

Each weekday, starting at 7 in the morning and continuing until 7 at night, weary-looking men dressed in threadbare jackets and worn running shoes gather at the corner of Roosevelt Avenue and 73rd Street in Jackson Heights, Queens, under the gloomy shadow of the el. Swiveling their heads as if watching a tennis match, the men scan each passing car, in the hope that a driver will stop and offer up $100 in exchange for a 10-hour day of grueling labor on a construction or demolition project on Long Island.

But offers of work are few these days, and competition for jobs is intense. As winter approaches, a man can easily spend the entire day shivering and desperately hungry, because these day laborers, many of them from Mexico or elsewhere in Latin America, are not only poor immigrants in need of work; many are also homeless, or nearly. “We come here to look for work,” said a 47-year-old Ecuadorean named Carlos Suarez as he hugged a cheap leopard-print comforter that serves as his bed. “There is none. What can we do?”

Mr. Suarez says that he has sometimes gone days without eating and has on occasion survived only on bread. But for the past three months, he has eaten at least one hot meal a day, thanks to a former illegal immigrant who, with the help of his mother, has become a guardian angel for these workers. The man, Jorge Muñoz, is an elfin 43-year-old who goes by the nickname Colombia, a reference to the country from which he emigrated 21 years ago. Every night around 9:30, he arrives at the intersection from his home in Woodhaven, driving a white pickup truck laden with enough home-cooked fare to feed the dozens of day laborers who congregate there.

For many New Yorkers, Thanksgiving is a weekend to indulge in a brief stint of volunteerism at a church or soup kitchen. For Mr. Muñoz, the holiday is just another night devoted to feeding his unofficial flock. “Every single night, Jorge is here,” said one worker, his leathery face peering out from a hooded sweatshirt. “Doesn’t matter. Rain, thunderstorm, lightning. He do that from his good will, you know.” “He feeds everybody, make the stomach happy,” the worker added. “He’s an angel.” “He got no life,” his sister says. “But he got a big heart.”

When Mr. Muñoz’s truck pulled in, several workers pressed their faces to the tinted windows, hoping to catch a glimpse of dinner. Hopping into the back of the truck, Mr. Muñoz began untying steaming containers filled with hot chocolate and foil-covered trays of homemade barbecued chicken. As the workers accepted Styrofoam containers stuffed with hearty portions of chicken and rice, they thanked him as respectfully as if he were a parent, never mind that the 5-foot-2 Mr. Muñoz, with his buzz cut and boyish grin, could pass for 20-something.

God bless you,” one burly worker said as he dug into his meal. “I haven’t eaten in three days.” Mr. Muñoz replied with a smile, “You can eat here every day at 9:30.” The relationship between Mr. Muñoz and many of the men he feeds is personal. “Uribe, you want more coffee?” he asked as he saw a familiar face. “Simon, do you want seconds on this pasta?

In a way, Mr. Muñoz seems to need these men as much as they need him. His unofficial meal program gives meaning and focus to his life. He is as eager to help his motley clientele as they are to be helped. “I know these people are waiting for me,” he said of the emotions that fuel his quixotic and perhaps obsessive crusade. “And I worry about them. You have to see their smile, man. That’s the way I get paid.”

Jorge Muñoz: An Angel in Queens

Adam B. Ellick has written a much more detailed article about Jorge Muñoz in The New York Times, which interested readers can access here.
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