Documentary Films

INVISIBLE PEOPLE: a documentary series of short films 

Invisible People is a documentary series that tells the stories of Phoenix, Arizona residents who are part of the city’s underground tapestry, but passed over by“normal” residents during the course of their busy lives. They look past the“invisibles” never giving them a second thought. Each documentary short is no longer then ten minutes and is designed to make the viewer take a moment to see the invisible become visible. Each subject is filmed telling each subject’s own personal story, in their own environment, in their own words. We see their fears, struggles, failures, victories, passions, and dreams – and hear their voices. They become real through the visual and auditory connection of film. The viewer is drawn into the narrator’s environment which creates personal connection to those on the screen. Thus, the “invisible” become “visible.” These real life stories have the effect of making us question our prejudices, political stances, ideas of familial expectation and right and wrong. 

In 2016, during an assignment for my documentary art class at Arizona State University, the idea for this project came to me after watching the local nightly news. That fall, the Phoenix news headlines were dominated by “The Freeway Shooter,” who made his mark by shooting out the car windows of drivers on several of our freeways. After watching a local news report on the suspect I thought to myself, “what’s this guy’s story, what’s he trying to say?”  The news put up a map of Phoenix with the locations of every freeway shooting and I started to imagine the suspect’s rationale. Why do this…

I’ve lived in downtown Phoenix for seven years and have become very involved in my community. That's what started me thinking about the hundreds of thousands of people that pass through downtown Phoenix on the I-10 every morning, coming in from their suburban neighborhoods, stuck in their boring daily routines, too busy to see all the life and beauty that I enjoy every day. I created a narrative in my head --the freeway shooter was shooting out windows to breakup people’s daily routines, by scaring them off of the freeway. He forced drivers to take detours and diverted them into downtown neighborhoods where hopefully they would experience amazing murals, neighborhood gardens, neighbors communicating, small business owners opening their shops, people sitting at the bus and light rail stops, mothers playing with their kids in parks, and the smiles on people’s faces as they buy food from street vendors. I got it! TheFreeway Shooter wasn’t committing crimes he was creating live guerrilla art theatre. Only the participants were in the dark. This yielded yet another insight; this is what I want to do -- make films that tell the story of forgotten people who become invisible. I want to show their beauty, struggles, and dreams, and use their stories to shoot out metaphorical car windows, forcing people to stop and take a detour from their daily routines, even if it’s just for ten minutes. Hence, the title of the documentary series, “InvisiblePeople.

I’ve been surprised and touched by the responses I’ve received from viewers of my first two films in this series. Even more enlightening are the responses from other “invisibles”. On one hand, it’s heartbreaking, but on the other it’s one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. After watching my films, these folks come to me with tears in their eyes, tell me their stories, and ask me to make them “visible” too. This idea of making “the invisible, visible”resonates with us all and is the driving force as I continue to add films to this series.

Family/Business-This film is about a small business owner in Phoenix who comes from a very successful Mexican family. The family owned a chain of restaurants in the Phoenix metropolitan area. In order to grow her business, the narrator’s mother sacrificed time with her children. The narrator grew up to resent his mother and the restaurant business. Unlike his brothers and sister, he rebels by not working in the family business. Instead opens up a totally different type of business, but finds himself utilizing the same customer service practices he grew up watching his mother use. After having a family of his own and putting in the work to grow his business, the narrator has come to appreciate and understand the past actions of his mother and accept the legacy left to him and his siblings. Once his mother decides to step down, he knows that alongside his brothers and sister, he would be more than happy to carry the torch she has left them.

This film talks about forgiveness, sacrifice, family, unmet expectations and coming to grips with the mistakes of your parents at the same time embracing the good things you learned from them along the way. The subject and his mother reach thousands of people with their businesses and most people know nothing about them beyond the services they provide. His story makes them“visible,” and the viewer is left, not just think about their own parent’s legacy, but about how they are interacting with their own children.

Eloteros-In this documentary we look at two street cart vendors who operate in the Coronado neighborhood of downtown Phoenix. They sell elote, a Mexican style of street corn. In this film we hear their fears, hopes, and dreams as these Mexican nationals navigate through these neighborhoods and streets trying to make a better life for themselves and their families.

If you don’t like street food or didn’t grow up eating this style of corn, then you’re like most people, you drive by them not thinking twice. This film helps the viewer to see the bigger picture and look past their own food preferences. The two subjects in this film have their faces hidden to protect them and to show their invisibleness in the immigration debate in America. The whole point is to show them as people first, struggling to make ends meet like the rest of us. 

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