Filmmaker Q&A with Director Set Hernandez Rongkilyo

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

Tam Tran, undocumented immigrant filmmaker


What motivated you to make your impact video?

The rhetoric to advance immigrant justice in the U.S. has mostly focused on undocumented youth, students, and young professionals who have DACA. This often overlooks the leadership of the elderly, domestic workers, and transgender leaders. COVER/AGE came about as the state of CA stalls healthcare expansion for undocumented elderly people, while this population provides care in spite of the risks on their health during the global pandemic. This film uplifts the need for this country to not just take the labor of undocumented immigrants, but also honor their dignity by including their basic human right to health.


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

Panasonic Lumix GH5


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

Considering the nature of the protagonists’ immigration status, the production was done in collaboration with them to ensure their safety as undocumented leaders. Developing a meaningful relationship with the protagonist was a way to honor how they trusted us to follow them around with a camera to share their stories.


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

When the film was first conceived in 2019, the original idea for the film was to create a short documentary about expanding healthcare in California for all young adults, as the state was on the verge of passing such a legislation. However, considering that undocumented elderly people are rarely highlighted in the immigrant justice narrative, we pivoted to share that story instead. The film also originally had a third protagonist. They originally agreed to being filmed, but due to the complexity of their immigration case, they pulled out of the story just a week before we were about to film. We were able to re-edit the film, and were grateful to prioritize this person’s safety.


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

It’s a powerful feeling to know that the protagonists you are filming trust you with their life story to the point that they feel vulnerable sharing with you the most intimate parts of their lives. It’s not necessarily rewarding, but to know that a person can trust you with so much of what they have (their life’s story) is such a big responsibility, and I am grateful to have been able to experience that with them.


What advice can you give to other impact filmmakers?

To make meaningful impact, it’s important to not work by and just for yourself. Make sure that you are building intentional relationships with the organizers who have been organizing on this issue before you even thought about your film. Art for impact must be made for the people’s sake, and to do so, the people must be part of the decision-making and thought process.


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

Editing is my most favorite part of filmmaking, especially for non-fiction/documentary. You start production thinking your story will be one thing; you go to the edit room and see the footage you have and come out with something significantly different. It’s an ever-evolving process of discovery from an idea to an actual story.


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

My beltbag, where I put my extra memory cards, extra batteries, ND filters, etc. within easy reach while I’m filming.


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

The campaign featured in COVER/AG is the Health4All campaign, which seeks to expand healthcare access for all people in the state of California, including undocumented immigrants.


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

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the U.S., this film highlights even more the importance of expanding healthcare access for all people, including undocumented workers who are the homecare workers, farmworkers, and essential workers that this country relies on, but continues to deny their humanity by excluding them from their basic rights like healthcare.


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

In the credits, there’s a dedication to Tita Maddie. She’s a mentor and auntie of mine who passed away from cancer because of her lack of access to healthcare as an undocumented immigrant. Nonetheless, while she was battling cancer, she continued her advocacy to expand healthcare access for our undocumented community. So many others are like her. We dedicate COVER/AGE to Tita Maddie and the many others who unjustly die because of lack of access to healthcare due to their immigration status.


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

The undocumented immigrant community is not monolithic. Our experiences are nuanced, and the challenges we face are many. Often, deportation and immigration enforcement through ICE is the only issue we are associated with, but just like everyone else, we are also affected by healthcare, labor issues, gender disparity, etc.


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

• Undocumented people are not just victims of circumstance. We are the organizers, leaders, and storytellers that shape our own experiences.
• It is hypocritical that the wealthiest nation in the world that claims to stand for freedom and justice exploits the labor of elderly undocumented workers and excluding them from healthcare access.
• The Affordable Care Act, which is the key policy passed by the Democratic Obama Administration, explicitly excluded healthcare provisions for undocumented immigrants.


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

The state of CA still has not expanded healthcare access for undocumented elderly people. So many undocumented workers continue to be affected by the COVID pandemic without access to healthcare. At the national level, undocumented workers are systematically excluded from provisions of stimulus legislation as well.


What opportunities are available for those interested in getting further involved?

Go to to learn how you can get involved in the Health4All campaign in CA. If you are outside of CA, can help connect you to organizations that help expand healthcare for undocumented immigrants in your state.


Please provide any additional resources (websites, links to additional videos, forms, articles, etc.) relevant to the context of the issue discussed in your video:



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