At a time when families are being torn apart and immigrant children are being subject to some of the most inhumane treatment ICE and the government could dream up, stories about what the costs of coming into the United States from a Central American country are more necessary than ever. Enter Caracol CruzandoDirected by Pamela Maria Chavez and presented by Latino Public Broadcasting, the film is part of this year’s PBS Online Film Festival. In just short 15 minutes, the animated tale follows young Anais “Caracol” Lobo, who’s about to embark on a trip from her native Costa Rica to Miami.

Combining natural folklore and a nail-biting storyline that feels impossibly timely, Chavez’s short feels like a picture-book come alive. Its bold colors and lineless drawings show us Caracol’s plight as she readies to travel by plane with her father (who doesn’t have a US visa of his own) while her mother and brother plan to cross the border separately. And while the adults around her worry about the possible dangers that their decisions entail, Caracol is mostly concerned with the prospect of leaving her pet turtle behind.

As Chavez told PBS, she was intent on centering this story on a child’s perspective: “I want to tenderly open this conversation up to children. I want to give a platform for children who may have immigrated to see themselves in this story. I want a child who may not know what immigration even means to begin asking questions about borders, about equity.” Dedicated to “all the immigrant children who follow their hearts,” Caracol Cruzando offers a window into the imaginative mind of a brown girl who’ll learn what it means to sacrifice what you love most to find a better life elsewhere. You can watch the full short film below and vote for it over at the PBS site.

PBS Online Film Festival runs July 16-27, 2018.

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