Documentary filmmaker Sara McPherson goes behind the scenes of horse racing to focus on the Mexican illegal immigrants who care for the horses and keep the tracks running. Straightforward and honest, the film paints a fascinating portrait of the people who work hard to provide a future for their children despite their tough living conditions, terribly low wages, unfair treatment, and the constant fear of being caught by immigration police and sent back to Mexico.
How did the idea for this film come about?
I began to think about a possible racetrack story after reading a New York Times article on Santa Anita Racetrack and a failed attempt by workers to get higher wages there. When I went to look at the Bay Meadows Racetrack in San Mateo, California, I learned that the track was facing demolition and redevelopment as housing and commercial space. Because of this, workers in northern California were more concerned about just keeping their jobs, rather than improving pay and conditions. After spending time on the backside of the racetrack I became fascinated with the insular immigrant community there, where most of the workers were from particular regions of Mexico and where the isolation provided a refuge from the outside world.
The family you focused on was surprisingly open and honest. Was it difficult to convince them to be filmed or were they readily willing to share their stories?
Dionicia and Mario both felt that they had something to say about the way undocumented immigrants are treated in America, so they were willing to participate from the start and, I think, very brave to come forward so completely with their story.
Immigration can be a volatile topic. What have been the reactions to your film, both good and bad?
Well, Stable Life is having its world premiere at the Santa Barbara International FIlm Festival, so we haven’t had a lot of reaction to the film yet! In making Stable Life we are trying to shed light on the undocumented experience, and I hope that, regardless of political viewpoint, viewers will take away an appreciation of the fundamental human struggles of Dionicia and her family and the needless suffering created by our broken immigration system.