The Oaxaca FilmFest international film festival in Mexico has featured the work of Guillermo Del Toro, Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese. And now Martín González, who graduated with a degree in film and media production from Arizona State University's School of Film, Dance and Theatre in 2018, can add his name to that list.
González recently announced that his short film “The (Dis)united States” is an official selection for the Oaxaca FilmFest, which has been praised by MovieMaker magazine as one of the top festivals in the world.
González said his film is based on true events that occurred in 2009 and in 2013 in Arizona, when two different car washes were raided by the sheriff and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“In that situation, many workers were detained due to their immigration status,” he said. “This in result tore many families apart, which led to children coming home to no parent or guardian in sight. The log line for my film is: 'When a young man's family is on the verge of being torn apart, he makes one last plea for their freedom.'”
González, a first-generation American whose family migrated to the U.S. about 25 years ago in search of a better life, said the film means a lot to him.
“I made this film because it is a subject that is not only personal to me, but to the people around me as well,” he said. “I am also close with plenty of people who are also immigrants. This film is my way of raising awareness for those who have been silenced due to the political climate and political challenges we are still facing to this day.”
He hopes the film creates an important conversation on the current immigration issues.
“I ask for those who don’t agree as well as for those who agree with different policies to give me 11 minutes of their time and watch the film,” he said. “Every solution starts with a conversation.”
González said he made the film while he was a student in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre because he wanted to make a difference with his work — something he encourages other filmmakers at ASU to do.
“Create the stories that you know will make a difference, whether big or small,” he said. “Filmmaking is a way to express your feelings to the world. Never hold back and always remember you can only get better at your craft if you keep creating. Intimidation is a feeling you should use as an advantage to prove to yourself you can do it and you will.”
González’s time at ASU helped him push through his own intimidation and determine his course as a director.
“Being a student at Herberger Institute helped me craft my art and also helped me realize what kind of artist I wanted to be,” he said. “It gave me the chance to test the waters in almost every aspect of film, and throughout my four years there, I fell in love with direction and the ability to make films that challenge not only the artist, but the viewer.”
He started drafting the idea for the film “The (Dis)united States” in his junior year, and finished production in his senior year for his capstone project. The piece was selected to screen in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre’s 2018 Fall Film Showcase, where it received the F. Miguel Valenti Award for Ethical Filmmaking. Named for the first assistant director of film at the school, who created the framework of the film program’s focus on ethical filmmaking practices, the award is presented to a project that substantially and significantly represents issues and themes related to ethical inquiries, and/or complex and difficult subject matter, in an ethically responsible and compelling manner.
“The award meant a lot to me,” González said. “It gave me the push I needed to get my film out there and have my voice heard.”
Since then, González and his team have been submitting the film to festivals. It was exactly one year after González wrapped work on “The (Dis)united States” that he received the news it had been accepted to Oaxaca FilmFest.
“I felt very happy within that moment but also sad,” González said. “I was glad that I had finally been accepted to be a part of a prestigious festival, but sad that I knew certain family members as well as friends would not be able to support me by my side in Mexico due to their immigration statuses. Although it was a day filled with mixed emotions, it also gave me the strength I needed to keep pushing this story forward and try to make some kind of change, big or small.”