Professor of documentary Marta Bautis has a history of creating independent documentaries focusing on identity and representation. As an Argentine filmmaker and immigrant, she heavily focuses on stories of struggle and hope that highlight global social issues. She believes that through her work she can share the stories mainstream communication doesn’t share.
A recent work of hers is “Desarraigo y Esperanza” (“Displacement and Hope”). The 40-minute long documentary premiered in 2021, but it is still being viewed for the first time by many.
On Monday evening, there was a screening of her documentary in the H-wing theater, followed by a discussion with Father Fabian Arias, a featured member of the film and associate producer, and his godson Bruno.
The documentary follows the story of Hérmes, a young Latin American man that escaped his small Mexican village when he was a teenager to come to America. Many Latin Americans face the struggle to cross the border and come to America for a safer life, but many do not receive the opportunity to actually make it to the other side. Though this journey is incredibly risky and dangerous, for Hérmes, staying in his village was worse.
As a gay man, he could be killed for his existence. After the murder of his brother, who also was gay, Hérmes knew he needed to escape. He eventually ended up in New York City, where he lived in a small apartment with many others. He sought out work that did not require legal documents, and he eventually enrolled in an education program created for immigrant folks. Hérmes also worked hard creating fashion designs, as his dream is to be a fashion designer in the city.
After feeling so out of place for his immigration status, race and sexuality, he agreed to go with a friend to a church that did accept queer people and immigrants. The church was Iglesia de Sion in Harlem, a large Latino congregation, which merged with Saint Peter’s Church and relocated to Manhattan. Here, Hérmes met Arias, the pastor and an activist for immigration issues.
Arias, an Argentine immigrant himself, helped Hérmes enter the Program of Juvenile Visas, and he eventually became Hérmes’ legal guardian in 2007 so he could remain in the U.S. and live a better, safer life. Hérmes was only the first of nearly 160 undocumented youngsters from age 18-21 Arias has become the legal guardian for.
After Bautis met Arias and learned about his and Hérmes’ story, she was compelled to create the documentary to share their stories and give a perspective on Latin American immigration. As an immigrant herself, she understands the experience and the poor way many people perceive immigrants, and she wants others to understand that despite where we are from or what we do, we all are similar.
“Everybody has an idea of immigrants, especially by mainstream media. They tell you about what immigrants are and how they’re taking away our jobs and they’re taking away our money and they’re gonna invade our cities… there are so many misconceptions,” Bautis said after the screening.
She shared an instance of when she asked someone if they wanted to see her film about immigrants, and the person asked, “whose side?” Bautis believes that there is no side – it is just a story. Through this narrative people have about “sides” or political beliefs of immigrants, it continues to stigmatize immigration and look down upon those who are different from “traditional” Americans.
After Bautis met Arias and learned about his and Hérmes’ story, she was compelled to create the documentary to share their stories and give a perspective on Latin American immigration.
Her documentary not only shares an incredibly compelling and emotional story, but it breaks away from the stereotypes most Americans have about immigration and the Latino community. It is an important watch for anyone who gets the chance to see it, and it is a remarkable reminder that those who wish to seek progressive change exist right here in our own school.
“We’re all the same and we all have dreams. We all want the same things,” Bautis said. “Maybe we want different things, but we all want to be happy.”
Featured photo by Emily Melvin