Águilas (Eagles)

Filmmaker Q&A with Director Kristy Guevara-Flanagan

Is there a particular video, film, campaign or filmmaker that had a major influence on your career?

Lourdes Portillo and her film about the disappeared women in Juarez had a huge influence on my career.


What motivated you to make your impact video?

I wanted to show how migrants and Latino Americans can be activists and advocates for their communities.


Please tell us what camera(s) you shot with primarily – and any other special equipment that you used and why you used it.

Canon C100. We wanted a small footprint and portability.


Please tell us about any special styles or techniques that you used during the production of your impact video to help tell your story.

I opted for a “live” embodied camera, so that audiences would “feel” what it might be like to cross the border in the desert. We used a lot of handheld camera for this. We also wanted to make sure the film never felt sensational or extractive. We had a long relationship to the Aguilas del Desierto.


How did your story evolve from day one, to the very last day in post? Is your story what you thought it would be?

Documentary films always evolve! But I always wanted to balance delivering information about the volunteers and missing migrants with audiences having an experiential journey through this part of the desert. That never changed. But how to strike that balance was a nuanced and ever-changing edit. And, of course, one never knows what stories they will actually encounter in the desert. I didn’t know if we would find human remains or migrants themselves.


Please describe the most rewarding experience you had while making this impact video.

The most rewarding experience was bringing light to this issue. Many audiences either don’t realize how treacherous the crossing is nor what migrants are risking in embarking on this journey. It is not a decision made lightly,


What advice can you give to other impact filmmakers?

Stick to a point of view. How do you want audiences to step through your story and engage with its character? Understanding that helped guide my entire process in making and editing the film.


What’s your favorite part about the filmmaking process and why?

I love getting to go places I might normally go nor be invited. I love when filmmaking can be an invitation to others’ experiences, communities, and worlds.


What’s the one item you always take with you when working out in the field and why?

Water and protein bars and batteries!! Filming in the desert in August can be lethal. But I always want to have extra water and food for my crew.


Please provide a brief description of the work or organization featured in your video:

Aguilas del desierto is an all-volunteer group that searches for migrants who have gone missing in crossing the US/Mexico border. People from all over the world connect with them because they have no one else to turn to nor other recourse when their loved ones go missing. Aguilas del desierto make every effort to try and find their missing family and friends and help them with other resources when they might be scared to contact US or Mexican officials.


What have you learned about the value and impact of the project?

Films raise awareness, change minds, and can sway public opinion in a direction that can ultimately lead to significant policy change.


Please share a personal story about your experience making this impact video.

The most harrowing moment was finding human remains while searching. This is not uncommon for the Aguilas, but we found three skulls and clothes. One may have been of a minor. I have never come across death in that direct of a way. It made me feel the utmost responsibility in getting this story right.


What do you want audiences to take away from this video?

We want audiences to reflect on the journey the migrants make, what might motivate them situationally to make such a risky decision, and to learn about our own policies that force migrants into crossing into more and more dangerous terrain. And to understand that these policies actually kill people.


Please list key points that should be covered in a post-screening discussion:

Audiences can discuss their relationship to migration (where their families have come from); how they are affected by migration and migration policies; learn more about the factors influencing migration, and to identify how our country has and continues to benefit from migration.


Please provide information on any recent developments regarding the issue or subjects of the video. How have things changed or not changed?

Whether Republicans or Democrats are in office, it has been really hard to change immigration policy. Biden has been no different. While Trump instituted the harshest recent bans, policy has not really been reversed. Migrants are largely turned away without significant pathways to asylum.


Please provide any additional resources (websites, links to additional videos, forms, articles, etc.):

Our website: https://www.aguilasdocumentary.com/

Our study guide: https://www.pbs.org/pov/resources/aguilas-discussion-guide/

Aguilas del Desierto website: https://aguilasdeldesierto.org/



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