Director Pamela Maria Chavez Tells Immigration Story Through Emotional Animated Film

Photo Courtesy of PBS

Director Pamela Maria Chavez is tackling the difficult subject of immigration in a unique way to help people of all ages understand the sacrifices involved. She released an animated short titled Caracol Cruzando as part of the PBS Online Festival that kicked-off on July 16. 

The short tells the story of a young girl from Costa Rica named Anais who is preparing to leave her native country to cross the Mexican/United States border with her family. The animated short is a passion project for Chavez that has been in the works for many years. 

Click here to vote for Caracol Cruzando as your favorite film via the PBS Online Festival

We spoke to the filmmaker about the short and how it can help to start conversations with children about immigration. You can also find out how to support this wonderful film!

What a beautiful and sweet film for people of all ages. What inspired you to tell the story of Caracol and her family?

Thank you, it was a labor of love created by a group of incredible artists, writers, musicians, and filmmakers that really gave this movie life. Everyone who was a part of this film brought their own talent, hard work, but also a genuine desire to create something that would have an impact on the world, especially for children. I was inspired to tell the story of Caracol primarily out of a desire, a call, to create a counter-narrative to the current representation of immigrants.

As an artist, I wanted to tell a story that would captivate audiences visually, emotionally, and socially. I wanted to create a platform for children to be able to speak on an issue almost always dominated by adults. I believe very profoundly in the power of our youth, in their strength, resilience, and purely genuine intentions of young people. I want to hear them talk.

For adults- I want them to tap into that inner child, to find their own parallel forms of resiliency and strength. We can all use a little bit of remembering-remembering who we are, where we come from, and what grounds us.

You started working on this short in 2014, yet the subject matter is more important than ever!

As a good friend put it after she saw the film-it’s very affirming. I think people that work in the movement to change our immigration policies have been fighting this battle for quite some time. Immigration lawyers, advocacy groups, refugee organizations - are all at the front lines, they witness children and families separated on a daily basis and have been working to help those families with little to no resources.

It’s a reality that has existed for quite some time; as a child, it was a reality I brushed up against when I was immigrating with my dad. Much like in the movie, I didn’t know if I would see my mom or brother again, and I was afraid that we would be caught.

Today, children are living the reality of forced and intentional separation, and that’s both heartbreaking and enraging. What we’re seeing is children being used as political pawns to feed a greater, inhumane narrative.

Since 2014, we’ve seen a cultural shift that weighs heavy on this narrative. Today, immigrating is even more perilous. I feel that now more than ever, we need to have open dialogue with children about what’s happening at our borders. We need to take control of our narratives.

Now more than ever do we need to take action. Now more than ever we need to confront issues that many have lived in the margins; the truth about our borders and the inhumane treatment of immigrants is in the open-we can all have a role in helping change the outcome.

What do you hope people take away from your short?

I hope that people gain a greater sense of empathy towards undocumented people and feel called to a dialogue that may make them uncomfortable. I hope they are inspired in some way, to become allies to this movement. We need all hands on deck. Teachers, community leaders, parents, we all have roles as adults to help tease out dialogues with children about his experience.

Not everyone is a frontline activist, but there are still ways to create change even within our daily interactions. In order for there to be long-term, cultural change, the conversations about immigration need to be in the open. In classrooms, at home, in community centers, at parks.

Sometimes we feel afraid or we don’t know what to say I know I do. When I was first directing our young voice actors, they asked questions about the story. They wanted to know what borders were and why they existed. I can easily break that down- to a 20-year-old. But to a 7-year-old? That’s tough. They were hard questions but it helped me realize this is where the work is. This is why we’re making this.

Children have a natural curiosity about these sorts of issues and taking the time to have that conversation with kids will go really far. I hope this movie can help adults with kids when they feel like they don’t know what to say or how to say it. Maybe they can ask things like- What do you think Anais felt at the end? How do you feel? Who do you think is at the door? Why? How does that make you feel? Why do you think Anais went to see Ceiba? Do you think she was scared?

How can everyone support Caracol Cruzando?

They can watch the film on the Online PBS Film Festival between July 16-27th online, they can watch it through Latino Public Broadcasting online, they can share it with families, with community centers, universities-anyone doing work regarding immigration.

Latino Public Broadcasting is our presenter and our funder-they are an incredible resource for both Latinx films and for filmmakers wanting to express Latinx stories. They were profoundly helpful to me and I was blessed to have had them in my corner. Supporting organizations that support artists is always a good way to continue creating these stories. We have such a large, healthy thriving community of talented artists, having the platform to express our visions is integral to our growth, I know it was for me.

Thanks to the Online PBS Film Festival, you can also watch the film in full below: