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<em>Life on the Line</em>

Courtesy Photo

Life on the Line


Life on the Line

Director Sally Rubin


While the divisive issue of immigration gets batted about by politicians and ideologues from 10,000 feet high, millions are left dealing with the resulting policies on the ground. As this short doc shows, no one feels that more than the transfronterizos, those who live, work, and learn on different sides of the U.S.-Mexican border every day.

I don’t think many people realize that there is a whole culture of people who live literally straddling the border. How did you get involved in telling this story?

As educators and filmmakers who live in predominantly Latino neighborhoods, we were interested in the stories of people who live right on the border — the line that divides one country and culture from another. In any population, it is often the teenagers who most vividly express the complexities and issues therein, so we searched specifically for youth who were growing up on the border, curious about how such an experience might affect the development of one’s identity. This led us to border schools and, shortly, to the film’s protagonist, Kimberly Torrez.

Is there an estimate on how many “transfronterizos” there are?

We have had a difficult time finding any reliable number on just how many “transfronterizos” there are — kids who cross the border from Mexico to the US ea+ch day to go to school. All estimates are somewhere in the thousands. Just how many is difficult to say, because this is a “hidden, silent population.”

How did you find this family? Was it hard to get them to open up?

We found the Torrez family through Kimberly’s school, a bilingual, multicultural public charter school that lies less than a mile north of the border. The school’s founder, Balty Garcia, introduced us to several children including Kimberly, and we knew once we spoke with her that she was special. She exudes a wisdom beyond her years that we knew would make for a compelling film subject, and after being introduced to her family, we were confident that we had found the story we wanted to tell. Of all of our subjects, only Vanessa, Kimberly’s mother, found it difficult to open up. Vanessa lived undocumented in the United States for 15 years and, used to a “hidden” and silent life, was wary of sharing too much about her story.

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