Guest Voz: Emmy-winning filmmaker exposes the cruel hardships facing immigrant workers at U.S.-based sweatshops

LatinaLista — Almudena Carracedo, a budding LA-based filmmaker, happened to catch a news item in her local paper about five years ago. It was a story about the sweatshops in Los Angeles, the west coast fashion center of the nation.

Filmmaker Almudena Carracedo proudly wins her first Emmy for Made in L.A.
As Almudena read the article, she was appalled to discover that immigrant workers were being subjected to conditions expected of third-world countries, but not the United States.
Intent on capturing on film the atrocities immigrant workers are subjected to in making cheap clothing for U.S. consumers on U.S. soil, Almudena embarked on a journey that spanned five years and resulted in an Emmy award-winning film that showcases the struggles of immigrant workers, their bravery and the one thing that has been a constant in all their lives — never giving up on their dream to succeed in the United States.

In the process of documenting the lives of the main subjects in her film, Almudena’s life has taken on a new mission — to educate people everywhere about the abuses directed at immigrant workers.
At the web site for Made In L.A., Almudena illustrates her newfound commitment to empowering immigrant women and improving their work conditions by supplying readers not only with the obligatory supplemental information about the film but with a wealth of sources for readers to learn more about the issues of immigration, immigrant rights and specific steps on how to become a conscientious consumer and supporter of sweat-free businesses.

I’ve spent the last seven years on an extraordinary journey making and distributing a film about three courageous Latina immigrants, which has amazingly, just won an Emmy. The film, Made in L.A, started as a small grassroots project, and with much effort and a lot of community support grew into a feature documentary that would ultimately be broadcast nationally on PBS POV series and be shown around the world.
This journey has also made a deep impact on me emotionally, and I am grateful to have been invited to write a guest blog here at LatinaLista to share this experience.
Made in L.A. follows the remarkable story of Lupe, Maria and Maura, three Latina immigrants working in Los Angeles garment sweatshops as they embark on a three-year odyssey to win basic labor protections from trendy clothing retailer Forever 21. In intimate observational style, the film (which is completely bilingual English/Spanish), reveals the impact of the struggle on each woman’s life as they are gradually transformed by the experience. Compelling, humorous and deeply human, Made in L.A. is a story about immigration, the power of unity and the courage it takes to find your voice.
Over the last year we have done hundreds of community and campus screenings, and we have traveled the world with the film. Audience responses have been extremely emotional –above all, Made in L.A. provides a deeply human window into the immigrants’ struggle, which is repeated around the world regardless of the country of origin or destiny.
We have seen a group of Moroccan immigrant restaurant workers cry after seeing the film in Paris; we’ve had crowds cheer and embrace each other in Mexico City and in Michoacán; and we’ve had packed houses in Madrid where immigrants, fashion students, low wage workers and regular folks have engaged in extremely emotional hour long discussions after each screening.
And while there’s tragic backlash and resentment directed towards recent immigrants wherever we go, our experience has been that the film has been able open a door for people to discuss these issues on a very human and emotional level.

The United States is a country that’s been, in part, built by waves of immigrants, and yet — and this continues to amaze me — immigrants remain the focus of hatred and resentment here, too. There’s a scene in Made in L.A. where Lupe, one of the main characters and an immigrant from Mexico City, visits the Lower East Side Tenement Museum and Ellis Island, the gateway for millions of immigrants coming to the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Lupe sees pictures of the immigrants who came to New York more than a hundred years ago and sees how they lived, how hard they worked, and how they fought for their rights. In a moment of epiphany, both saddened and empowered, she concludes “It’s just like today!” That was a revelatory moment for me as well. She is so right, and it brings me great sadness that so many people have yet to connect these most recent waves of immigration to the greater U.S. narrative: it’s just the same struggle, the same hopes and dreams for a better life, both for themselves and for their children.
But Made in L.A. is not a portrait of immigrants as victims, but as active agents who successfully organize and claim their rights. Immigrant groups are effectively organizing worldwide, and we are honored that Made in L.A. can provide an example of pride and persistence — and bring Cesar Chavez’s Si se Puede spirit to audiences across the world.
With all this in mind, we have just launched a new “Host A Screening” Community Screening Initiative which enables grassroots groups, nonprofits, student groups, unions, and faith-based organizations to hold their own screenings of Made in L.A. in order to engage their communities around local and national issues of low-wage work, women’s empowerment, consumer awareness and the everyday struggles of immigrant workers.
At the end, the Emmy comes to validate all this struggle, the women’s and ours, but it is worth nothing if we don’t put it to work. There is still much work to do and we hope that you will encourage groups in your community to screen Made in L.A., so that this struggle and the Si Se Puede that resonates in the film can reach hundreds, thousands, even millions more people around the country and around the globe.

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