Two Americans is a documentary tracing the parallel stories of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the 9 year old American daughter of undocumented immigrants arrested in one of the Sheriff’s workplace raids. The film examines the impact of U.S. immigration policies from two different perspectives. Valeria Fernandez and Dan De Vivo, the directors for Two Americans, discuss the film.
José Cárdenas: "Two Americans" is a documentary that follows the story of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the 9-year-old daughter of undocumented immigrants arrested in one of Sheriff Joe's workplace raids. The film examines the 11 immigration issue from two different perspectives. We will talk to the filmmakers in a moment, but first here is a trailer from the film.
Trailer: "Breaking news just coming in to us right now, deputies from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, they are currently executing a search warrant at the auto lot. Both of us were working at the time. 25 different employees that could be illegal immigrants. His operation is the 7th business investigated by the Sheriff's Office for employer sanctions violations. I know how to solve the problem. You arrest them. Why do I get all the heat because someone does something wrong and I use the word â€˜punishment', which nobody else will use. Why should they not be punished? You lose everything in just one second. I never thought this would happened to my parents. She's the Phoenix girl whose teary eyed plea to President Barack Obama is being seen around the world on YouTube. Do you know why they had to arrest your parents? I know why, because they weren't born here and they say that's against the law. I think it's difficult for a little girl to understand. But she tried to find solutions to fight. Car wash! We're doing this carwash to raise money to hire a lawyer. Whose house is this? My aunt's. Are you staying with her? No, I stayed with her yesterday but I think today maybe I'm going with my other aunt. Why do I do it? There's only one reason: It's you. I'm 90 years old sweetheart. 90 years old? Yes. I'll vote every time you run. Thank you. As long as I'm here. Can I be the sheriff at 90? Well, maybe I don't know. Well, honey, you're not so young, either. Most older people are afraid of children and afraid of people who don't obey the law because those people are nasty. They have to be punished. The issue of immigration will become a source of fresh contention in our country with the passage of a controversial law in Arizona and the heated reactions we've seen across America. At least 20 other states are considering similar legislation. This law does not fix the immigration problem. It adds new problems.
José Cárdenas: "Two Americans" premiered and won the audience award at the Arizona Film Festival in Tucson back in April. Joining me to talk about the documentary are Valeria Fernández, journalist and filmmaker, and Dan De Vivo, filmmaker. Valeria and Dan both worked on "Two Americans." Thank you both for joining us on "Horizonte." You've been here before. We talked about the effort that you were going through to make the film. Tell us very quickly, what's happened since in terms of fundraising, getting support?
Dan de Vivo: Yeah, no we've had a lot of people come to our support. We managed to raise a significant amount of money to support us through the production process which took about three years and right now, we're so happy to be premiering this film later on this month in Maricopa County for the first time.
José Cárdenas: Valeria, there's been a lot that's been done in the media, certainly print media but also, some films about the immigration issue. Certainly there's no scarcity of video on Sheriff Joe Arpaio. What's different about your film?
Valeria Fernández: I think that what really makes "Two Americans" stand out is how we enter intimately into this very, very different world, the world of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, his enforcement activity, what goes on behind the scenes with his agency, all the allegations that he's facing, and then the world of a 9-year-old girl whose parents got taken away and her life is turned upside down. And the immigrants of the story, this family, are true protagonists. There's no one else speaking for them and think the audience feels like they are with them. As much as they feel like there with Sheriff Joe Arpaio and that's to the credit of my colleague Dan with the amazing work that he did by following Arpaio and getting access to his agency, which was quite a challenge.
José Cárdenas: What's the current status with respect to the little girl who's one of the protagonists?
Valeria Fernández: It's very important. Her family still is in the middle of the deportation proceeding. They have to go in front of the court next July 2013 and it's a very, very difficult case because they need to prove to this immigration judge that it could cause harm toward their daughter and the threshold, the standard to prove that is very, very high.
José Cárdenas: And the daughter of course, the reason this is called "Two Americans" is because by anybody's definition she's an American, she was born in this country.
Valeria Fernández: She was born in the United States, yes.
José Cárdenas: One of the things that I understand people will really be struck by is that, despite the tremendous amount of video that we have on Sheriff Joe, yours goes to new levels because of just incredible access that you had to the Sheriff.
Dan De Vivo: Well, I think it was. It was a great result as a result of him allowing me to hang out and just observe what was happening and certain things happened that you wouldn't expect to see. Of course, I'm not going to give that all away but there are certain things that first of all, it's very hard with Sheriff Joe. He's very familiar and very comfortable in front of the cameras so it's not as if he's going to go off script. I think there were some times when that did happen.
José Cárdenas: So do you think he was over confident? He's so used to dealing with the media that he wasn't as guarded as maybe another politician might be?
Dan De Vivo: It could be. The Sheriff, we've been hanging out with the sheriff the last two and a half years, maybe even three years. And it's been a difficult time for the Sheriff and that's kind of the exciting part of this film is that, you know, you really get an understanding of what the ups and downs of his organization, what they've been going through, the challenges that he's been facing from the community who's been putting more and more pressure on him, how he's responding to these criticisms, how he's responding to these charges, these lawsuits, these investigations, potential indictment. So it's really interesting to see how he's responding throughout that entire history, which I think is a very interesting history.
José Cárdenas: Why do you think the sheriff gave you this type of access, because he wouldn't have expected this to be a flattering piece on him.
Dan De Vivo: I'm not exactly sure. I think it helped that I had a prior film under my belt that was at the Sun Dance Film Festival. I think the Sheriff wants to know that if he's giving somebody his time, it's going to yield results.
José Cárdenas: Publicity. Dan indicated the timing was interesting that the sheriff's office was going through some interesting times and you and I were talking a little earlier about the fact that the film is released as you have litigation initiated by the Department of Justice against the Sheriff, Andrew Thomas was disbarred and the film talks about some of those issues, as well.
Valeria Fernández: And it was increasingly challenging. We're following the subject that is undergoing so many investigations that are evolving. It was difficult for us we draw the line here and stop filming. We're still filming in a way. The film will touch on the Department of Justice investigations and not only the allegations of uses of racial profiling with the Latino community and the impact of his sweeps on this community but also the allegation of abusive of power from critics from the Sheriff, members of the board of supervisors and county employees and I think that's very unique because again, we are trying to put all the pieces of the puzzle together and it gives you a snapshot of like four years of history of what's been going on here and how we got where we are. Which is difficult to get when you're in the newsrooms. Oftentimes, the background is not there of how we got to where we are right now. I mean, we're hearing from people that have already seen the film that it's given then a lot of extra information and perspective to understand how we got to where we are, and how he's taking all this heat.
Dan De Vivo: When we started this film, Sheriff Joe and the federal government, they were at the height of cooperation on the enforcement of illegal immigration at a state level. There was the program and the Sheriff was a fully signed on member, cooperating with the federal government to, you know, enforce immigration laws at the local level. He was there. And so by the time now, there's a federal investigation into his practices. So it's really an interesting cycle of history that we're in.
José Cárdenas: And does the film, is it consistent with the allegations made by the Department of Justice and by the Sheriff's critics?
Valeria Fernández: It is extremely it's very consistent and very close and I guess we were amazed when we were at the press conference when they announced the lawsuit, how many of the things they were talking about are in the film. And I guess it's surprising for us because we've been working on this for several years and it seemed to align somewhat with the story that we're telling.
Dan De Vivo: And it's not just the sheriff.
José Cárdenas: We've only got about 30 seconds. So very quickly will people watching this movie who are supporters of Joe Arpaio, will they come away with a different impression of him?
Dan De Vivo: I have a hard time. I think answering that, because I think even the Sheriff himself might enjoy watching this film because he is presented as somebody who stands by his, you know, stands guard.
José Cárdenas: Will it change anybody's mind?
Dan De Vivo: I hope so. I hope that you'll get to see and question whether or not, you know, you want to continue to support somebody at least in the way that we portray him in the film.
José Cárdenas: And on that note we're going to have to end the interview. I know the movie is being shown all around Arizona the next few months so congratulations. That is our show for this night, from all of us here at "Horizonte." I'm José Cárdenas, have a good evening.
Valeria Fernandez:Director, Two Americans; Dan De Vivo:Director, Two Americans;