By BENÉT J. WILSON
Latino Social Innovation (LSI) has released its first short documentary film, Danger: Journalists Crossing, created to counter negative media stereotypes about migrant workers. The film, the brainchild of LSI Chief Innovation Officer Eliana Godoy, was directed by veteran social movement filmmaker Greg Berger. LSI was created to disrupt mainstream notions and stereotypes of Latinos via media, art exhibits, events and other creative interventions.
The film is a humorous political satire that illustrates how mainstream media harbors negative stereotypes of Central American migrants. Migrants participated in making the film, including those involved in this year’s “Via Crucis,” a migrant-led 268-mile march created to bring attention to their plight. The film raised $26,296 in only seven days on its Kickstarter campaign. AllDigitocracy.org spoke with Godoy and Berger about the film.
AllDigitocracy: How did you come up with the idea for Latino Social Innovation?
Eliana Godoy: I had been working in New York City for many years in the arts and social justice, so I started the group Art for Change. We opened a small cultural space where artists and activists could meet. We did exhibits and programs like English as a Second Language and journalism classes for migrant women. We then moved on to international development issues in Mexico.
I felt the U.S. was stuck in dealing with race issues. The media contributes a lot to harboring stereotypes, so I felt there was a need for an organization to work on social issues in an engaging way. We wanted to give people of color and Latinos the skills and technology to create their own stories.
AD: How did you come up with the idea for the film Danger: Journalists Crossing?
Greg Berger: I’m originally from New York City, but I’ve been making films in Mexico for 18 years. Eliana has been a supporter of my work and we’ve collaborated for a long time. Ten years ago, I changed focus and stopped making long documentaries. I realized that most films about social movements didn’t help them advance their goals and objectives. Instead they were focused on horrors that couldn’t be resolved. But if you make shorter comedies about social movements, it could expand the audience of the movement, and expanded movements can be more effective.
The butt of the joke in the movie is not the movement; it’s the interloper, and I usually play the interloper. I started working with migrants because there’s a disconnect on the story of helpless minority migrants. Migrants are not helpless. They are innovative. People are using the film as an organizing tool. Our film starts as a comedy, then takes a serious tone. People are drawn to it.
AD: Why did you feel it was an important story to tell?
EG: The media help shape the world and its culture. So the media can be a part of the problem with stereotypes and negative images of migrants. So to show stories of migrants in action is great. We can see voices being heard or stories being shaped by the people themselves. For me, it’s important to counter the narrative on immigrants by letting them tell their stories of risking their lives to create change.
AD: What are some projects coming up that you’re excited about?
EG: I am really excited about a program I’m collaborating with Greg on, about implementing reproductive rights in Bolivia. This is something Greg started covering in Mexico, where we distributed short films in the streets. Bolivia is a country where reproductive rights are limited. A lot of our work is engaging local communities, and we already have collaborators on the ground there.
I’m also excited about DejaLu, our new book distribution project, which I’ve been working on for a year. Many parents are unable to read to their kids if they don’t speak English. We’re using a website to utilize the old Netflix model. Families can become monthly members and receive children’s books in Spanish. These books are written and illustrated by Latinos; they’re not just English translations.
Benét J. Wilson is the founder and owner of Aviation Queen LLC, a freelance writing, multimedia and consulting firm. She is a freelance aviation/travel journalist and blogger who has written for publications and blogs including USA Today, AirwaysNews.com, ACI-NA Centerlines magazine, Aviation International News, Airport World, the Airline Passenger Experience magazine, About.com and the Runway Girl Network. She currently serves on the board of the Online News Association, where she chairs the Diversity Committee. She is also vice president-digital of the National Association of Black Journalists. She is the editor-in-chief of AllDigitocracy.org.