Each year, thousands of Latin American migrants travel hundreds of miles to the United States, with many making their way on the tops of freight trains. Roughly five percent of those traveling alone are children. As the United States continues to debate immigration reform, the documentary Which Way Home looks the issue through the eyes of children who face the harrowing journey with enormous courage and resourcefulness.
An official selection at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival and the 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival, Which Way Home follows several unaccompanied child migrants as they journey through Mexico en route to the U.S. on a freight train called "The Beast." Putting a human face on the immigration issue, director Rebecca Cammisa (the CINEMAX documentary "Sister Helen") reveals some of the reasons kids resort to drastic and dangerous measures, among them: bringing an end to long-term separation from their parents; escaping life on the streets; lack of jobs or educational opportunities at home; and hopes of a better life north of the border.
Central American children making the journey to the United States must first cross the Guatemala-Mexico border. Although Mexican companies prohibit riders on freight trains, thousands board them anyway, making the rule impossible to enforce.
Among the children featured in Which Way Home: Fito, 13-year-old Honduran whose mother abandoned him when he was very young, lives with his impoverished grandmother, who has a job making cigars. He is traveling to the U.S. to look for work and hopes to be adopted.
Yurico, a 17-year-old Mexican who ran away from his mother, has lived on the streets of Tapachula, Chiapas since age seven. Yurico proclaims that his life has been spent begging and sleeping on streets, thieving and abusing drugs; sometimes he makes money by washing buses at the city depot. Yurico wants a life free of drugs and violence, and is traveling to the U.S. to find a loving family, and to be reborn.
Jairo is a 14-year-old Mexican whose father never accepted him. He has lived on the streets of Chiapas since his mother was killed a year ago. Schooling is very important to him, but he cannot currently afford to continue his education. Jairo has decided to go to Laredo, Texas to find employment, and then return to Mexico with money to hire a tutor.
Jose, a nine-year-old Salvadoran, lives with his aunt, and has not seen his mother Rosa since she left to work in the U.S. three years ago. Hoping to live with her, he traveled through Mexico on a bus with a smuggler. When Mexican immigration officials boarded the bus, the smuggler abandoned Jose, who was then taken to a detention center.
Nine-year-old Hondurans Olga and Freddy travel to the U.S. via Mexican freight trains. Olga is trying to get to her mother and sisters in Minnesota, while Freddy wants to reunite with his father. Both have witnessed many accidents while riding the trains, and hope that God will bless their journey.
Juan Carlos, a 13-year-old Guatemalan, left a letter for his mother Esmeralda, stating that he was going to the U.S. to help her and his siblings. Juan Carlos' father abandoned the family years ago, so he feels it is his responsibility to provide for them. He also wants to find his father in New York, and confront him about why he's forgotten them.
Which Way Home also features the families of two young migrants who did not survive their journey: 13-year-old Eloy and his 16-year-old cousin Rosario, whose bodies were found in the desert. Their deaths underscore the extremely dangerous journey taken by these often-invisible children, who are making adult decisions to change their lives.
Rebecca Cammisa became a filmmaker in 1998, teaming up with Rob Fruchtman to co-direct, co-produce and shoot the acclaimed feature documentary "Sister Helen," which aired on CINEMAX. The film won the 2002 Sundance Film Festival's Documentary Directing Award, and was nominated for a 2004 News Documentary Emmy® Award for Outstanding Cultural & Artistic Programming. "Sister Helen" also won the Gold Hugo Award for Best Documentary Film at the Chicago International Film Festival, the Jury Prize for Best Documentary Film at the Newport Film Festival and the Best Documentary Film Award at the Nashville Film Festival. Cammisa is recipient of a New York State Council on the Arts Media Fellowship and a J. William Fulbright Fellowship to Mexico for Filmmaking.
Mr. Mudd is a partnership between Oscar®-nominated producers Lianne Halfon, John Malkovich and Russell Smith that began in 1997 with their production of "Libra" at the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago. Over the next decade they produced five feature films, three documentaries and two plays on stages from Mexico City to Paris. A London theatrical production is planned for 2010 and seven feature film projects are in active development.
Which Way Home is an HBO Documentary Films presentation in association with Good and White Buffalo Entertainment; a Mr. Mudd production in association with Documentress Films; directed and produced by Rebecca Cammisa; executive producers, Lianne Halfon, John Malkovich, Russell Smith, Jack Turner, Bristol Baughan and Bette Cerf Hill; directors of photography, Lorenzo Hagerman and Eric Goethals; editors, Pax Wassermann and Madeleine Gavin; music composed by James Lavino; additional music composed by Alberto Iglesias. For HBO: supervising producer, Sara Bernstein; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.
2009 Documentary Films Series