When the independent drama A Better Life debuted at theaters in the summer of 2011, actor Demián Bichir hoped the film would cause a ripple effect both cinematically and politically. Not only could it serve as his introduction to American audiences as a leading man, Bichir believed it was the kind of powerful narrative that could spur positive changes on immigration issues.
In director Chris Weitz’s film, Bichir earned an Academy Award nomination (the first for a Latine man in the Best Actor category in 47 years) for playing Carlos Galindo, an undocumented Mexican day laborer working as a landscaper and trying to raise his teenage son in Los Angeles.
Ten years later, A Better Life deserves to be referenced alongside other classic Latine films like Zoot Suit, El Norte, La Bamba, and Stand and Deliver. Its legacy may still be forming after only a decade, but Bichir knows he was part of something very special. “The magic of moviemaking and the beauty of films is that they will last forever,” Bichir told Remezcla during a recent interview. “That’s how timeless movies are.”
Still, Bichir wanted A Better Life to make the kind of cultural and political impact that moved mountains. He wanted the film to play a larger role in finding a solution to the ever-polarizing subject of immigration reform.
“I wish we could be talking about [the film] as something that ignited a resolution of an issue that’s been on everyone’s table for way too long,” he said. “I wish we could make this 10-year anniversary a real celebration. [Immigration reform] has been on every politician’s agenda but no one really takes it seriously.”
Regardless of what politicians decide (or don’t decide) to do on immigration reform, Bichir said that A Better Life will stand as an example of strong storytelling and the type of script that he would like to see produced more than once or twice a year, especially if it can help pull immigrants out of the shadows. He said it’s time to be fair to undocumented immigrants living in America.
“If you really want to know your gardeners and the ladies who take care of your babies and the people who cook your food, then we should stop playing games,” Bichir said. “We should stop the double-standard rhetoric. ‘We love [immigrants], but we hate them. We need them, but we don’t want them here.’ Make up your mind because you can’t have it both ways.”