Made in L.A.: a Documentary

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Mon, 02/25/2019 - 9:00am to 10:00am

Made in L.A., an Emmy Award-winning documentary film, will be shown on Sunday, March 3rd at the Clinton Street Theater, 7-9:30 pm, as part of Portland Democratic Socialists of America’s movie night series. Made in L.A. is a story about immigration, the power of unity and the courage it takes to find your voice. Discussion panel will follow this 70-minute film. $5-10 by donation (no one will be turned away). Tickets available at the door or in advance at DSA members Kara Hansen, Candy Herrera and Keith Guthrie organized the event.

Made in L.A. is directed by Spanish filmmaker Almundena Carracedo, who attended UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television. In the 2009 article “‘Made in L.A.,’ Funded From all Over,” Producer Robert Bahar writes:

“Made in L.A. began when Almudena Carracedo read a newspaper article about sweatshops in Los Angeles. It talked about deplorable conditions faced by immigrants working in some downtown garment factories: long hours, sub-minimum wage (or no pay) and unsafe and unsanitary conditions. Shocked that this was happening in the US, she set out to make a short educational video that would expose these issues and would take about five months to complete--or so she thought! She approached Los Angeles' Garment Worker Center, then newly opened, and started spending time there, sometimes filming, often just talking with workers. Speaking in her native Spanish, being a woman and working alone, she gradually established trust. The workers had just launched a boycott campaign, and there was much to film.

"Over five years, our documentary Made in L.A., grew from a short educational video into a feature doc that would premiere on the PBS primetime series P.O.V. in 2007. Hundreds of educational and community screenings followed the broadcast…

"Made in L.A.'s journey began in the living rooms and gardens of its core audience. Individuals with a passion for social justice, fair trade, women's issues, labor and immigrants' rights reached out to their communities and made this journey possible."

Denise Morris asked DSA member and union organizer for the Washington Education Association Candy Herrera to share her thoughts on Made in L.A. as a relevant teaching tool some twelve years after its initial release. The following is her response.

“The first thing that struck me in the beginning of the documentary was Maria Pineda's description of working in the garment industry as akin to the experience by many white ethnics working in sweat shops at the turn of the century. Particularly, the recollection of working without breaks or food with the doors locked — the latter of which provoked one the biggest incidents of garment worker mass death which was the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

“This parallel to the historical experience of white ethnics was also touched on much later in the film, but the direct connection to the particular struggle of garment workers is not made explicit. While this was a missed opportunity, I think the film did as much as it could to make the women's struggle relevant for what is likely a sympathetic audience. 

“Another reflection from the film is that the threat of deportation looms in the background but is never really made present. This is in stark contrast with the realities faced by immigrant activists in the present day, many of whom are being targeted and deported for their activism. As a formerly undocumented immigrant, I can attest that the fear of deportation never really goes away, but I can only imagine the fear that modern day activists are going through. We used to say that being outspoken and creating a support base as a result is actually what saves you from deportation. I don't know if that is truly the case anymore. 

“In terms of building socialism, it's hard not to sound like I'm repeating tired tropes, but the fact of the matter is that we cannot build socialism unless we center the voices of the most oppressed in our organizing. This includes immigrant and most importantly Black women on the margins of society, and use them as a touchstone for how our movement is developing.

“I'll cite a quote from someone much smarter than I who summed it up very eloquently — James Baldwin:

Well, if one really wishes to know how justice is administered in a country, one does not question the policemen, the lawyers, the judges, or the protected members of the middle class. One goes to the unprotected — those, precisely, who need the law's protection most! — and listens to their testimony. Ask any Mexican, any Puerto Rican, any black man, any poor person - ask the wretched how they fare in the halls of justice, and then you will know, not whether or not the country is just, but whether or not it has any love for justice, or any concept of it. It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have. – James Baldwin, No Name in the Street (1972)”

A scene from the PBS documentary Made in L.A. Photo by Felicity Murphy

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