Over the years there’s been no shortage of well-meaning films about the Mexican migrant experience in the United States, but for better or for worse many of them have been made by non-Latinos with little personal connection to the struggle. That’s perfectly fine, of course — we can always use more allies in the quest for social justice within our communities — but it would also be nice to have more voices speaking from a place of lived experience.
Which is why the project Lupe Under the Sun, by director Rodrigo Reyes, is so important. Drawing from the stories of his own grandparents, who worked in the fields of California’s Central Valley many years ago, Lupe Under the Sun takes a novel docufiction approach to the narrative of an aging laborer who dreams of returning to Mexico before he dies.
Reyes is already a familiar figure to many savvy cinenerds, most notably for his last film Purgatorio, which earned the young director numerous accolades, including Best U.S.-Latino Film at the 2014 Cinema Tropical Awards. His continued fascination with the transfronterizo experience comes from his own upbringing shuttling between Mexico City and Merced, California. While Reyes has admitted that he was “solidly middle-class” back in Mexico, it was his years spent living in Merced that forced him into some critical reflection about his identity as both Mexican and American.
In addition to his unique perspective, Reyes also happens to possess a powerful cinematic voice and a sensitive eye for the poetry of the moving image. A brief teaser for Lupe Under the Sun, released as part of an ongoing Indiegogo campaign, showcases what happens when he trains this lyrical vision on the simple struggle of a migrant farmworker in the hardscrabble communities of California’s Central Valley. Indeed, rather than treating his characters as mere vessels for a political message, Reyes takes his time to study the faces and small gestures of his subjects, allowing time to unfold at a contemplative, almost hypnotic pace. It’s a refreshingly new approach to an issue that is so often framed in black-and-white moral or political terms.
If you happen to agree that this story is an important contribution to our ongoing narrative on the migrant experience, check out the crowdfunding campaign and pitch in a few bucks for the film’s post-production fees in the lead up to its premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June.