By Jude Bautista
She was in tears relating, “Nagkaroon ako ng facebook ayaw niya ko accept. Accept niya naman ako. Ayaw niya ako accept bakit ganoon? Facebook lang yan e…Eto yung last sulat niya sakin November 1997.” Audiences at the CCP main theater started laughing while some were moved to tears. The interview was both humorous and touching at the same time. Emilie Salinas is the mother of Pinoy immigration crusader and Pulitzer Prize winning Journalist Jose Antonio Vargas. They hadn’t seen each other in 20 years because of Jose being an undocumented American or illegal alien in their terms. Jose couldn’t handle the complication of having to explain to most people how or why he hasn’t seen his mother for so long, that’s why he just didn’t add her.
DOCUMENTED is the opening film of Cinemalaya X held at the CCP main theater last August 1, 2014. It is one of many powerful documentary pieces that shed the spot light on a number of issues. The documentary section is now a couple of years old at the Cinemalaya fest and features titles like KEEP ON BELIEVIN’: EVERYMAN’S JOURNEY by Ramona Diaz, PANG-ALAY: ANG PAGBABALIK SA TAWI-TAWI by Nanette Matilac, JEEPNEY by Esy Casey,DUNGKOY by Sigrid Andrea Bernardo, ULILANG LUBOS by Joseph Israel Laban, VOYAGE OF THE BALANGAY by Minda Ponce-Rodriguez, KWENTONG GILAS all at the CCP.
KWENTONG GILAS for example shows the journey of the SMART GILAS team during the 2013 FIBA Asia Cup. You can check schedules and venues of the screenings here: https://www.facebook.com/728726927160127/photos/a.822047371161415.1073741836.728726927160127/822047444494741/?type=1&relevant_count=1
DOCUMENTED relates the journey which starts from Jose Antonio Vargas coming out in a New York Times essay revealing his illegal alien status. The experience may be personal but the need to be legitimized is something universal. It’s not just a Filipino issue but also something anyone can relate to.
The piece also deals with Gay rights as Vargas shared his experiences of coming out as s high schooler and then later on comparing that with his revelation as and ‘AMERICAN without papers.’ This is a documentary that should be seen by everyone, not just in the U.S. or the Philippines but the whole world. Whenever there’s prejudice, injustice one should speak up and fight. Viewers will see how social media, the Internet are all tools for change and taking part in a positive way.
Vargas has all the professional credibility as Washington Post Correspondent, Technology & Innovation editor for Huffington Post even as CNN.com Contributor. He risked it all after seeing the DREAMERS ACT movement where students who were illegal immigrants came out via YouTube. He couldn’t just be in the sidelines but had to actively participate in his own way. Starting the DEFINE AMERICA campaign along with four other journalists. One of their goals is being able to give people a mechanism/process to legitimize their life in the U.S.
DOCUMENTED is able to show both sides of the argument, even those opposed to immigration reform. In one interview in Brimingham, Alabama, the interviewee was cut off by someone listening on the conversation and disagreeing with them. Jose then interviewed that guy who said “ I’m against immigrants staying in an apartment 10 people deep..” Or the time Jose was kicked out of a Mitt Romney town hall meeting just because he was holding up a sign I AM AN AMERCAN W/O PAPERS. The worst thing he did was engage a couple in a conversation about the immigration issue.
What is unsaid but is evident in the documentary though is the powerful and pervasive influence of media. DOCUMENTED is co-produced by CNN Films. One can imagine that Vargas would have been deported immediately after coming out, had he not been a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. That’s the point, however, he’s not just fighting for himself or his own status but that of millions of others, who are not as articulate and influential a position.
Filipinos understand and appreciate the burning issues of U.S. politics especially those concerning immigration. But it’s the human side, the tearing apart of the family, which touches Pinoys the most. Whether its Pepe talking on the phone with congressmen and immigration officials and pausing to say, “Lola mamaya ka na mag hugas ng pinggan nasa telepono ako”. Or after not calling his mom for years the first time they see each other via Skype she touches the screen of the laptop in an effort to feel his face. In an interview later she says, “Gusto ko lang mahawakan yung mukha niya ng ganito, gaya ng bata pa siya.”