East of Salinas
José is an excellent student with a bright future except that he is undocumented, the child of migrant farm laborers in California's Salinas Valley.
Directed by Laura Pacheco, Jackie Mow
Editor: Rachel Clark
Music: Joseph Julian Gonzalez
Director of Photography: Jackie Mow
Executive Producer for ITVS: Sally Jo Fifer
Executive Producer for LPB: Sandie Viquez Pedlow
Supervising Producer: Jen Gilomen
A Co-Production of Rock Salt Creative, LLC and Independent Television (ITVS), produced in association with Latino Public Broadcasting with major funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
[Note: Community screenings of EAST OF SALINAS can be booked at Bullfrog Communities.]
"Thought-provoking documentary that puts a human face to the raging national debate over undocumented immigration and 'illegal aliens'." Kevin R. Johnson, Dean, UC Davis School of Law
EAST OF SALINAS begins with 3rd grader José telling us what he wants to be when he grows up. His parents work from sun up to sun down in the heart of California's "Steinbeck Country," the Salinas Valley. With little support available at home, José often turns to his teacher, Oscar Ramos, once a migrant farm kid himself. In fourth grade his teacher told him if he worked hard he could have a different life. Oscar won a scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley. The day he earned his degree, he bought a car and drove home to the fields. He's been teaching ever since.
José is Oscar's most gifted student. But how do you teach students like José who have no place to do their homework? How do you teach a kid who moves every few months? This is what Oscar is up against every day. Oscar not only teaches his students reading, math and science, he gives them access to a world beyond their reach.
But José was born in Mexico--and he's on the cusp of understanding the implications of that. As we watch this play out over three years, we begin to understand the cruelty of circumstance--for José and the many millions of undocumented kids like him.
EAST OF SALINAS asks, What is lost when kids like José are denied opportunities?
Grade Level: 7 - 12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2016
Copyright Date: 2015
DVD ISBN: 1-941545-56-4
"This documentary brings home the constant fear, misunderstanding and continuing national debate over 'undocumented immigrants and illegal aliens''...This is a thought-provoking film that puts real people in the cross hairs of an ongoing debate. Highly Recommended."
LaRoi Lawton, Educational Media Reviews Online
"I cannot think of a more timely intervention than this moving, humanizing portrait of a child, his family, and his teacher. East of Salinas illuminates not only the struggles and hopes of undocumented immigrants, but also the problems of a nation whose policies divide families and limit the opportunities of our youth...This film will spark many conversations and insights."
Kevin Kumashiro, Dean and Professor, School of Education, University of San Francisco, Author, Bad Teacher!: How Blaming Teachers Distorts the Bigger Picture
"Compelling...This film is timely, given the current debates about immigration, it would be excellent for classroom use, as well for general audiences."
De Ann Pendry, Visual Ethnography Journal
"With two million undocumented children in the U.S. today, this documentary offers a timely and poignant look at a national crisis that continues to defy easy solutions. Recommended."
S. Rees, Video Librarian
"Poignant...A realistic picture of the plight of migrant workers and their children as they struggle to advance in America. Recommended for public library collections and education collections focusing on immigration."
Ernest Jaeger, Library Journal
"When a committed teacher is there for these children, something magic happens. An intimate look at how education is transformative for the children of those who harvest the food we all eat every day, this film is a must see for parents, teachers, and policy educators. Every Parent Teacher Organization across the country should be screening this film at their schools."
Gonzalo Bacigalupe, Professor of Counseling Psychology, Director of Family Therapy Program, University of Massachusetts
"A thought-provoking documentary that puts a human face to the raging national debate over undocumented immigration and 'illegal aliens'...It tells of the unsung heroes in our schools, such as dedicated teacher Oscar Ramos, the child of farmworkers himself, who now works to help his students, the children of farmworkers, achieve the American dream."
Kevin R. Johnson, Dean, UC Davis School of Law, Co-Editor, ImmigrationProf Blog, Author, Opening the Floodgates? Why America Needs to Rethink Its Border and Immigration Laws
"East of Salinas is powerful, educational, heartrending, inspirational and unforgettable. It moves hearts and minds--a must for students, teachers, and the general public. The film brought back memories of my own childhood, growing up in a family of undocumented migrant workers. I found myself reliving and sharing with Jose and his family and teacher the same feelings, thoughts, and reactions to the realities of migrant life."
Francisco Jiménez, Emeritus Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures, Santa Clara University, Author, Taking Hold: From Migrant Childhood to Columbia University
"Moving...A documentary like East of Salinas is valuable. It takes a pass on the wonkery and social science and simply lets us see what life is like for a family supported by farm labor...It is a welcome glimpse of a ground truth amid the rhetoric."
Nathanael Johnson, Grist
"Watching [Ramos] inspire and challenge a class made up of children like José is one of the film's greatest pleasures...This documentary should be shown in classrooms around the country."
Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist
"A very powerful film for showing future teachers and practicing teachers...The film shows the cultural, linguistic and collective dimensions of support and care, which are still rare to find in most US educational contexts."
Higinio Dominguez, Assistant Professor of Teacher Education, Michigan State University
"It's a story we rarely hear about the families who are helping to put vegetables on our dinner plates...A story of hope."
Maria Gadoy, NPR
"Offers a no-frills look at this way of life...This is a must-have for libraries in agricultural areas. Students will see themselves in the film, and it will make others in the community aware of their circumstances."
Faythe Arredondo, School Library Journal
"Heartbreaking yet hopeful...A must see documentary for all educators and anyone interested in migrant families. The playing field is not level for children and it takes more than just hard work and determination for undocumented migrant students like José to succeed. Oscar Ramos demonstrates that teaching migrant students is not just a profession, but a calling with a foundation in empathy, and a burning quest for social justice."
Dr. Luis Urrieta, Jr. , Associate Professor of Cultural Studies in Education, University of Texas at Austin, Author, Working from Within: Chicana and Chicano Activist Educators in Whitestream Schools
"East of Salinas shows the complexities of Mexican immigrant integration trajectories...The film shows that immigrants' successful integration essentially depends upon their legal status, the availability of affordable housing, the length of their residence in the region, and the educational infrastructure that surrounds them."
Xochitl Bada, Associate Professor of Latin American and Latino Studies, University of Illinois-Chicago
"By showing us José and his struggles at the intersection of realities, East of Salinas reminds us in a year of elections that behind nationalistic and nativist discourses, are children and families who through hard work and sacrifice simply want happiness and satisfaction for themselves and their communities."
Dr. Ricardo B. Contreras, CEO of Ethnographica Sociocultural Research, Adjunct Professor of Anthropology, East Carolina University
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DVD includes scene selection and SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.
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The film's website
Independent Lens website for the film
Awards and Festivals
Nationwide Broadcast on PBS's "Independent Lens"
Social Justice Award, ReadingFilmFEST
Best Documentary, Boston International Kids Film Festival
Society for Visual Anthropology Film Festival
San Diego Latino Film Festival
Independent Film Festival Boston
UNA Monterey Bay International Documentary Film Festival
Science Books and Films Best Films List 2017
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"The film is primarily a slice of life lived by people many Americans don't know...It's hard not to want to find a compassionate solution, however complex that may seem. I highly recommend East of Salinas."
Melanie Votaw, Reel Life With Jane
"Their story is poignant and can shed light not only on the plight but the perseverance of the migrant farmworker."
Roberto M. Robledo, The Californian
"East of Salinas does a good job of humanizing Mexican immigrants and showing that they are no threat to American economy, society, or values. Adults simply want to work-and end up doing tasks that most native-born Americans would never consider-and children simply want to learn and make a better life...Level/use: Suitable for high school classes and college courses in cultural anthropology, economic anthropology, anthropology of immigration, anthropology of race and ethnicity, and American studies, as well as for general audiences."
Jack David Eller, Anthropology Review Database
"Highly Recommended...We see the hurdles that being illegal have already placed on his chances for success, and wonder how success will be possible in today's political environment...This documentary addresses a human aspect of the issue: the dilemma of how to deal with the 'Dreamers.' What is the American answer to children like Jose?"
Warren Fish, Science Books and Films