This spring, over three million students will graduate from U.S. high schools. Many will join their fellow millennials and have a chance to pursue their American dream. Some will choose to go to college, others will join the workforce, while a select group of approximately 65,000 youth won't even get this opportunity. Why? These students are considered to be "illegal immigrants." Many of these young adults have lived, worked and protected the United States for most of their lives and want nothing more than to be recognized as American. Yet, their family history and how they came to America inevitably stops them and inhibits them from their dreams coming true.
These students are more than just a number or a statistic. Each of them is a story to be a told and a dream to be fulfilled. Filmmaker, Jesse Salmeron, powerfully conveys the story of a young man who is on such a journey in his latest film, Dreamer. It is a powerful story of love, hope and what it truly means to be American. The film portrays Joe "Jose" Rodriguez (played by Jeremy Ray Valdez, "La Mission"), an All-American young man who has been raised in the United States since he was a young boy. He's amiable, well-educated and attractive. He graduated from college and is working and excelling in his field as the dubbed "Employee of the Month." He's on the way to achieving the American Dream. That is until one Friday afternoon, when his employer discovers he is undocumented and the life he has worked so hard to create begins to crumble around him. Emotional turmoil races through young Joe's mind and we witness him tumble from the top of his game through a tunnel of fear, mistrust and ultimately -- self-discovery.
On the big screen, Jeremy Ray Valdez is known for taking on poignant roles that influence and inspire conversations about social change. "I want to help tell the emotional side of the story," comments Valdez. Valdez takes the audience on a roller-coaster of success, struggle, and paranoia in an incredible performance that pulls audiences into the reality of a Dreamer's life and what they must grapple with on a daily basis. In addition to the exceptional performances, the film is artistically shot with a flare of the psychological torment of Memento, the style of Requiem for a Dream and the immigration agony of Babel.
Dreamer opens a window into the reality of many who, because of one insurmountable obstacle, find it impossible to achieve their dreams. Even though Joe was raised in the United States for all but the first few years of his life -- and considers himself American -- he must live with the constant fear of deportation from the country he loves, to a place he has never known. The film transcends racial lines and illuminates the immigration debate for what it is: a tragedy that affects all Americans.
Unfortunately, this story isn't an uncommon one. Especially among millennials. Jesse Salmeron began writing "Dreamer" in 2010 when the DREAM Act came within a few votes short of passage in the Senate. DREAMers were devastated -- optimism had been high. He saw many of his family and friends fall into a hopeless depression and the quest for the American dream quickly began a nightmare. He commented that when directing his film, "It had to be honest. It had to reflect their reality. It had to expose their deepest fears while laying bare their struggles with identity." Through writing the film, Salmeron mentioned that he had to come to terms with himself. His mother brought him and his siblings to the U.S. undocumented when he was three years old. He was fortunate to have been granted protected status and was considered a permanent resident, yet still felt the sadness of his family and friends and had to grapple with their feelings of rejection and alienation. "On the one hand, my adopted country made me who I am, it educated me and nourished me. On the other, it refuses to fully recognize all of its children." Dreamer is dedicated to them and all those who have felt isolated and alone at one point or another in their lives.
The film had a sold out premiere at Cinequest in San Jose and is scheduled for several screenings at various universities throughout the country. Dreamer will be at Georgetown University on April 10 sponsored by the National Hispanic Caucus and at Hispanicize in Miami, as well as, other festivals across the country. Keep the dream alive by stay updated at: www.dreamerfilm.com.