While co-directors Chris Temple and Zach Ingrasci were working on a project in a Mayan Guatemalan village in 2010, they initially met eight-year-old Luis.
After keeping in touch with the boy for several years, they discovered that at just 16 years old in 2017, Luis would be immigrating to New York City alone, undocumented, to help provide for his family.
Luis’ story inspired Temple and Ingrasci to create the documentary titled Five Years North on his new life working and studying in the United States. The film also follows Judy, the single mother, and Cuban-American ICE officer supervising Luis’ neighborhood.
“Because we had such unique and personal access to our two main characters, we made it our goal to provide a deeply personal look at their lives as complex individuals inside of our inhumane immigration system, rather than aim to provide a broad view of the issue,” Temple and Ingrasci wrote in their directors’ statement.
The co-directors also wrote in their joint statement that during the years it took to film the documentary, their experiences while closely following Luis and Judy sparked important questions.
“How do we justify our actions when we know they are hurting others? What lengths would we go to for family? What is the human cost of the American Dream? How can we build a more compassionate system rooted in restoration rather than punishment?” Temple and Ingrasci wrote.
The pair previously collaborated in the making of the 2013 documentary Living on One Dollar. The award-winning film followed the Five Years North co-directors, along with college students Sean Leonard and Ryan Christofferson, as they attempt to sustain themselves on only one dollar a day in rural Guatemala.
When Chris Temple spoke to English professor Elana Maloney’s Writing and Research class over Zoom during the fall semester, he said that his passion to make Living on One Dollar sparked from his studies as an economics major at Claremont McKenna College. His goal throughout the filmmaking process was to find out if his learning in class was applicable to the real world.
Following the creation of Living on One Dollar, Chris Temple and Zach Igrasci started the organization Optimist. For each of its films, the organization partners with nonprofits so viewers can contribute to the communities where they film. According to Optimist’s website, the organization has raised over $91.5 million dollars for various causes.
While speaking to professor Maloney’s class, Temple’s advice was to follow the “Wait, what?” moments and emphasized to the students that following curiosity, wherever it takes you, might lead you to do what you’re truly meant to. While Temple now considers himself a filmmaker, he recounted that pursuing that industry was never a part of his original life goals.
Professor Maloney stressed the relevance of Five Years North, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic, in the Jan. 2021 issue of the Global Citizenship Project Newsletter.
“Once the prime topic of debate, immigration has been overshadowed recently by economic and social issues due to the pandemic,” Maloney said. “There is no doubt though that immigration is — and will continue to be — an issue that must be addressed by our society.”
Currently in film festivals, winning awards, Brookdale will be hosting a virtual screening of Five Years North, available from March 29 to April 5, for BROOKDALIANS ONLY. Brookdale students, faculty, and staff may email firstname.lastname@example.org for the link to the viewing.
On Tuesday, April 6, Chris Temple will be running a Q&A discussion of the film, sponsored by the Global Citizenship Project, Student Life and Activities, and International Education Center.
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