Al Otro Lado

PBS Premiere: Aug. 1, 2006Check the broadcast schedule »

Ask the Filmmaker

To find out what happened to Magdiel, please visit the Film Update.

Susan from Texas asks: I grew up in Mexico, but my parents always had in mind that I would become part of the American society, and with the help of education, I did. Now I am a bilingual teacher, and I would like to make the children of immigrant families successful. What do you think is the greatest hurdle to jump to become part of this accepting society? Or is my question too biased, given that I was able to reach goals I had?

Natalia Almada: I think the hurdles are different for everyone depending on their individual strengths and weaknesses and their hopes and desires. Magdiel's situation is unique because he wants to be a famous musician. Your contribution as a bilingual teacher is really wonderful and surely is helping a lot of people reach their goals. I think that most importantly we need to create a more accepting society where people are more tolerant of cultural and racial differences and where there is more equal opportunity for all.

David from Kansas asks:I teach in Kansas, in a community and school which is mostly immigrant and 2nd generation Mexican families. I very much appreciate your interviews with the young men from LA. Your film has epitomized my students and their own struggles with their parents/teachers/school/ and countries. Often my 8th graders who are immigrants do not appreciate how interesting and important their lives are. How can we continue to highlight the significance of the illegal immigrants' lives?

Almada: I hope that my film and others like it (The Sixth Section, Farmingville, De Nadie) will contribute to this dialogue on immigration. Hopefully as immigrants see themselves represented in films and in the media at large as real complex human beings and not as stereotypes, we as a society will see the important contribution that immigrants make.

Nelson from Texas asks: Do you suggest for people to keep looking for this American dream? Or do you think they should stay in Mexico and help the economy there?

Almada: I honestly don't suggest either. Personally I believe that the American dream is a myth and I wish that there were more opportunities in Mexico so that people would stay. This however is easy to say, but a much harder decision to make when faced with a lack of opportunities and economic difficulties on the one side of the border and the hope or myth of the American Dream on the other side.

Sandra from Texas asks: Living on the border of Texas and Mexico, I have been very torn about the plight of the Mexican nationals trying to improve their plight. I have also seen the change in my own country due to this massive immigration. What do you think is the best solution for all?

Almada: I wish the situation where that so simple that I could have the solution. In making the film, my goal wasn't to provide a solution but to encourage dialogue on the issue.

Patricia from California asks: I'm an aspiring documentary filmmaker myself, and I have two questions. 1. What kind of camera did you use? and 2.Did you have funding secured before you began shooting?

Almada: We used a Panasonic 24p -- DVX100 to shoot -- but more important than the camera is the person behind it. Chuy Chavez my DP is fabulous! We didn't have funding secured before shooting.

Adriana from Washington asks: How did you feel when the three people that were trying to cross the border and who were hiding under the bushes, were found? How did you feel when one of the immigrants was in tears, and talked about how hard it was to live in Mexico, and the one of the vigilantes interrupted by saying, "It's the same story, right? they don't have jobs in Mexico. Sorry, no more illegals"?

Almada: This was the hardest moment in the filming of Al Otro Lado for me. I as shooting that day and I was following Chris Simcox with my camera thinking to myself that this was all a joke. That he would never find anyone. When he started saying "there they are" I was pointing my camera where his finger was pointing but it took me a while to see the four immigrants hiding. For me this was really heart breaking and a difficult moment because I knew that my camera was making this situation more humiliating for them and I knew that they would assume that I was with the Civil Homeland Defense Group. I don't know if I made the right decision to keep filmmaking, but once I was able to talk to them, tell them about the film and get their permission to be in the film I had the hope that maybe being in the film and having their story told would redeem the humiliation and tragedy of the moment.

Leo from Texas asks: what are your thoughts on the "immigration reform" campaign that is currently taking place in the U.S. and in the halls of Congress? Does it upset you that the media (as well as many politicians) tend to portray the immigrants as "invaders", while hardly covering the role that big business and pro-business politicians play in the entire scheme of things?

Almada: I felt there was a need to make a film that looked at immigration from a personal story and from a Mexican perspective. Often in the media we forget that we're looking at people's lives -- people with just a different set of circumstances than our own.