In Search of the American Dream is a story of five children and their adult brother as they desperately race across Texas for survival after their parents, who were undocumented for 30 years, were caught, arrested, and thrown in jail. When CPS threatens to separate the family, the children are forced to abandon the only home they’ve ever known.
By: Jackie Gil
Film director, Baldemar Rodriguez, an independent Houston filmmaker, in his first full-length feature film brings light to a tired and neglected subject immigration, in an exciting, family-friendly adventure with In Search of the American Dream. The story gets into the core of what could happen even when good-willed families, such as the Martinez family, evade the law because they want to give their undocumented families a shot at a better life. It shows how the broken U.S. Immigration system unintentionally criminalizes and pushes families to a corner.
Because the story is based on true events, the scenes with the young sisters (played by Daniela Jimenez and Kayla Valadez) are believable emotional scenes that will tug at your heart. These young actresses not only will make you cry, they will make you laugh throughout the movie because of their innocence and how well they delved into their characters in the movie. They are the comic relief to those emotional scenes.
Rodriguez also shows the audience yet another side to his artistic spectrum. He not only directs he also plays the lead actor as the older brother, David. In the movie, he must now do what he thinks is right for his younger siblings as he finds out his parents have just been arrested. There is a twist to Rodriguez’s character, though. There is a softer and insecure side to David under the typical macho character he plays. His sister, played by Shaina Sandoval, provides that balance and serves as a rock to his character. On screen there is great chemistry among the actors, the feeling of being a family comes across as genuine.
If you are familiar with the Golden Age of Mexican cinema, this film was reminiscent of the style and also paid homage to the great filmmakers and actors of that time. In fact, there was a pleasant surprise cameo from Irma Infante, the daughter of two Mexican icons, Pedro Infante and Irma Dorantes, who reign on screen during the Golden Age of Mexican cinema.
This film serves as the first crossover film to four-time Grammy winner Ramon Ayala and without giving too much away, Mr. Ayala plays his role naturally as grandfather to David. His music and appearance evokes nostalgia for David as he faces a though situation.
I was also surprised the movie featured many familiar sites in Texas that I recognized like Pasadena and various cinematic rural sites around Texas. To make the subject more real, a few local dignitaries appeared in the film - a clever decision by the film director.
Overall, I believe the stars have aligned for this production, at a time when consumers and audiences are asking for more Hispanic programming, talent, and story lines, this may be the adequate time for this movie to be a success.