Gala Screening, 2013 AFI Docs Film Festival
Audience Award (Documentary), 2013 Hawaii International Film Festival
Filmmaker scheduled to attend
Jose Antonio Vargas’ family didn’t expect he’d be a success. They didn’t expect that he’d find a network of supporters who’d believe in his promise. They didn’t expect that talent, courage, and hard work could allow him to transcend his questionable background. In other words, they did not fully anticipate the power of the American dream.
Jose was brought to the U.S. at age 12. He didn’t have papers, but his grandparents in California didn’t think it’d be a problem because they figured he’d go into the service industry like they did as immigrants from the Philippines. But Jose learned English, made friends, became a star student, edited the school paper, acted in plays, went to college, found a job with the Washington Post, and won a Pulitzer Prize.
DOCUMENTED is not a documentary about Jose Antonio Vargas’ achievements. It’s about, as he puts it, living in a different kind of reality – that even though he grew up on Anne of Green Gables, Will Smith, and Salt-n-Pepa, even though he pays taxes and pledges allegiance to the stars and stripes, he cannot share in the same liberties as any other American, nor can he hug his mother in the Philippines as any other human being could.
The autobiographical DOCUMENTED is one of the year’s most powerful documentaries not because it’s a compelling rags-to-riches tale, but because it’s the chronicle of a most unenviable process: Jose’s coming-out as an undocumented American, his shaky self-discovery as an activist and symbol, and perhaps most crushingly, his learning how to be a son to a mother he hasn’t seen since she let him go nearly 20 years ago.
As a documentarian, Jose Antonio Vargas is a natural storyteller, nimbly narrating his life story through snippets from public appearances, archival materials, and riveting footage with his biological and non-biological families. Through it all, the irony isn’t lost on him that a most imperfect nation produced, in many ways, a model American. What gets lost in the discussion of immigration reform, and which DOCUMENTED so emotionally discovers, is that the perfecting – and careful re-examining – of America is only possible with people like his high school principal or his newspaper colleague or his lola and lolo who understood that compassion often begins with a leap of faith. –Brian Hu
Co-presented by: Filipino American Lawyers of San Diego (FALSD), The Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego (JAHSSD), Kuya-Ate Mentorship Program, Center on Policy Initiatives (CPI), Filipino Ugnayan Student Organization, San Diego Foundation Civic Leadership Fund, Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS), Council of Philippine American Organizations of San Diego County, Inc. (COPAO), APAC & Convoy District, Iba Zambales Association of Southern California (IZASC)