Sundance 2022: Mija, passionate and inspiring documentary on immigration, music, social change, entrepreneurial resilience

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In less than a handful of years, Doris Muñoz quickly established her credentials in the music industry, particularly in artist management. His cross-generational connections to music have linked the classics of rachera and boleros to the legends of Juan Gabriel and Los Panchos, and recently to first-generation Mexican-American pop artists such as Cuco, Kali Uchis and Omar Apollo.

In mijaDirected by Isabel Castro in her first feature-length documentary which premiered at Sundance, Muñoz demonstrates a passionate and inspiring presence in a column highlighting the deportation fears of undocumented migrants, the sacrifices parents for first generation children born in the United States, the rise of a new generation of music stars as agents of social change and an example of pivoting in a career path when unexpected changes occur .

A still of mija by Isabel Castro, an official selection for the NEXT section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of the Sundance Institute | photo of Isabel Castro.

Framed by a soundtrack that beautifully parallels the emotional arc presented in the documentary narrative, the film presents Muñoz’s story without weighing it down with points of politically motivated politics. It’s a realistic portrayal of what it really means for immigrants to dream of the possibilities of not only establishing a meaningful livelihood in the United States, but also for the day when every family member doesn’t have to stay in the shadows.

Castro brings clips from home videos that Muñoz’s parents have filmed since arriving from Mexico in 1989. Birthday celebrations are featured throughout the film, which are significant for a variety of reasons, as are Thanksgiving celebrations.

Young Muñoz, 27, was born in Whittier, California, and later lived in San Bernardino. She was the only one safe from the risk of deportation. And, like so many children born in the United States to undocumented parents, she always knew that one day she would come home and find that her parents and two older brothers had been deported. In fact, one of the brothers (José) was deported six years ago after a routine background check by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He lives in Tijuana and in the film, Muñoz visits him regularly.

Jacks Haupt appears in mija by Isabel Castro, an official selection for the NEXT section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of the Sundance Institute | photo of Isabel Castro.

His family’s status became the spark that allowed him to carve out a place for himself in the music industry. Her career skyrocketed and soon she was earning six figures a year. This allowed him to help his family and create his own management company (now known as Casa Mija) and the Solidarity for Sanctuary concert series to raise awareness and funds to help immigrants without the proper documents. Scenes from the concert film, including those featuring Cuco, accentuate the path that Muñoz had traced so well.

But then the boom slowed in 2020 when the pandemic nearly wiped out his business and the business relationship with Cuco, his biggest customer, came to an abrupt end. Earlier, she negotiated the details for Cuco to land a multi-million dollar deal with Interscope Records. Castro captures with appropriate understated effect the candid moments of Muñoz trying to figure out what her next move will be after the pandemic upends the security she thought had been established with her business.

Eventually, Muñoz found the music and social media contact of Jacqueline Haupt (whose performing name is Jacks Haupt), who lives in Dallas. Like Muñoz, she is first generation and her parents are undocumented. Muñoz’s instincts about Haupt are well placed, as evidenced by the scenes where the young singer travels from Dallas to California where Muñoz has set up demo recording sessions, photo shoots and other meetings for her. One of the strongest scenes in the film occurs when Haupt is on the phone with her parents, sharing the news of what happened. Haupt also explains that Muñoz arranged for her to speak with a lawyer about handling their immigration case. The anger in Haupt’s mother’s voice is so pronounced that the appeal plays out entirely in the film. Her mother doesn’t think her daughter is realistic about her livelihood prospects that will also help them, especially after having sacrificed so much and endured the difficulty of supporting herself. Haupt is upset by her mother’s anger. Corn. it is also a scene where Muñoz demonstrates why she has also become an effective mentor for young musicians.

Doris Muñoz appears in mija by Isabel Castro, an official selection for the NEXT section at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of the Sundance Institute | photo of Isabel Castro.

When a first-generation child turns 21, they can now legally look for options to help their parents get legal documents. Muñoz hires a lawyer and pays a $6,000 fee to help his parents get their legal documents. After delays, some due to the usual pace of administrative bureaucracy involved and others due to the pandemic, their paperwork arrives. It’s a touching moment, especially for the father who breaks down in tears and realizes they can now safely cross the border to see their son they haven’t seen in half a dozen years. . Indeed, a karaoke performance by Juan Gabriel everlasting lovea song the Mexican musical legend wrote when his mother died, takes on appropriate meaning in a reunion made possible by the love, faith and perseverance of Muñoz and his family.

mija is an Impact Partners film, fiscally sponsored by the Utah Film Center and produced by Geralyn Dreyfous, who is also the center’s co-founder and chair of the board.

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