EL CAMINO REAL – Completed
EL CAMINO REAL is a short film (directed by David McClendon, featuring Dahlia Waingort) that explores the core themes of the feature film EL CAMINO, focussing on Elena’s journey.
Synopsis: Elena (Dahlia Waingort) makes the fateful decision to leave her husband and child, and travel to Mexico to be with her dying father. Being undocumented, she is forced to make her way back across the border to the U.S. as best she can…unaware that out-of-control wildfires block her path home.
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EL CAMINO – Pre-Production
Inspired by a true story, EL CAMINO puts a human face ton the tragic, and often fatal consequences of being undocumented.
Synopsis: Elena and Miguel Hernandez, along with their children, Isabella and Ricky, are doing their best to live the American Dream, when Elena suddenly receives news from her Baja village that her father, Enrique, is extremely ill and close to death. Although she has not returned since leaving over a dozen years ago, it is decided that she and her son, Ricky, will travel to Mexico to see their family and be with her father one last time. Miguel remains in San Diego to take care of Isabella and continue working.
Once arriving in her Baja Village, Elena’s able to spend cherished time with her father, mother, sister and brother. While listening to their mutual love, opera, Elena and Enrique talk well into the night and heal old wounds. Early one morning, while the rest of the house is asleep, Ricky and his grandfather talk of his life in San Diego. Enrique, who is a artist-philosopher-opera aficionado, teaches his grandson of his rich Mexican heritage, using a mural he painted long ago of the “King’s Highway” (El Camino Real) and inspires Ricky to have pride in his families rich “California” history and heritage.
After Enrique’s death and funeral it is decided that Elena’s younger sister, Soledad, will go north to the United States with Elena and Ricky. After they say goodby to their mother and brother, Elena, Ricky and Soledad begin their long journey home. Aware of the wildfires that are growing along the Border, Miguel and Isabella await their return. Once they reach the Tijuana Border, with the aid of their neighbor, Suzi, Ricky, being an American citizen is able to easily cross the Border. However, being undocumented, Elena and Soledad are forced to hire a human smuggler for the dangerous journey home. As the fires become more fierce Miguel’s concerns grow. Elena and Soledad are told by the smuggler that the wildfires will make their crossing easier. They are unaware that both man and nature are fatally out of control.
PAN AMERICAN – In Development
PAN AMERICAN tells the story of a teacher who inspires her students to create a project–the assignment not only challenges them, but unites her estranged family and ultimately brings her small border town together.
Synopsis: Alma Huerta is a part-time English as a Second Language teacher, in Douglas, Arizona, a border town whose glory days have come and gone, and whose future is uncertain.
Alma likes her life, but she yearns for more—a yearning she hasn’t shared with her struggling artist husband Michael, or her tightly-knit Mexican-American family.
We hear much about the Huerta family and the town from Alma’s recently deceased grandmother Abuelita — a powerful matriarch in life who is not yet able to find peace in the afterlife; unseen by the living, she dispenses highly opinionated, often acerbic, commentary. She is furious about the sudden surprise arrival of Alma’s long ostracized cousin Jaime now a successful and important playwright, whom Abuelita had banished twenty years earlier.
Jaime arrives with a thinly veiled chip on his shoulder and gets a cool reception at “Casa Huerta,” the family restaurant run by Alma’s mother Veraand Jaime’s father Manuel. To Alma, the independent and flamboyant Jaime is all things she’s not; his presence acts as a catalyst, bringing to the surface all her unspoken and unrealized dreams. She begs him to stay, and he agrees–for his own reasons, and because Alma is doing a project that interests him.
She has given her ESL students an assignment: to write about their lives, their families, and their town. After hearing tales of their complex and conflicted lives, Alma is convinced their stories need to be shared. Her optimism is so powerful that even the jaded Jaime is drawn in to the assignment, and begins exploring it on his own terms.
Inspired by Jaime’s interest, Alma decides to stage a presentation of her students “final assignment” on Thanksgiving Night—in the town’s old, abandoned Grand Theater.
Alma inspires, cajoles, encourages, and demands good work from her students and friends. Jaime, impressed by her natural gifts, and recognizing her need for a major life change, offers to take her with him to New York.
When Alma tells her husband Michael that she’s considering going, he is outwardly supportive, but he dreads leaving the high-desert beauty that inspires his work as an artist. Her mother Vera also unselfishly supports and encourages Alma. Abuelita gives up on them all.
On the eve of Thanksgiving, Alma is still unsure how her students feel about the upcoming event, and when none of them show for the “fiesta” at Casa Huerta on Thanksgiving Day, she fears the worst.
The students do show up, they perform beautifully, and their words have a profound effect on the audience. Suddenly the community recognizes the potential of these previously unnoticed young people.
Jaime, who ran afoul of some locals who beat him badly, is shaken and sobered, but manages to “go on with the show” as emcee and host.
The event changes everyone—especially Alma, who realizes that she already has everything in life that is most important to her.
CALIFORNIA ONE – In Development
A middle-aged surfer and his older mentor meet a young woman photographer who impetuously joins them for a final surprising trip up the coastal highway known as CALIFORNIA ONE.
Synopsis: An impetuous young girl, Joey, tosses a message in a bottle into a river near Los Angeles. Thirty years later, the bottle finds a surfer named Buddy on a wave; he picks it up and calls the number on the note. Joey has grown into a successful photographer, and she invites Buddy and his avuncular sidekick, Mack, to attend her gallery opening.
It’s clear that Joey is still an impulsive tomboy inside—when events send Buddy and Mack away from their local surfing milieu (and Buddy’s board-shaping business), Joey takes them up on an offer of a ride north in search of adventure.
The subsequent “surfin’ safari” up the Coast Highway (California 1) in Mack’s vintage RV highlights the unique beauty and increased commercialization of “the left coast.” Along the way, the humorously professorial Mack dispenses words of wisdom like “You’re never too old to be stoked,” and a colorful array of old and new friends enliven and inspire the journey.
Joey watches the two men from behind her camera lens, listens, and learns the reasons for the unwavering loyalty between the two men, and her feelings for Buddy deepen. When she finds herself falling in love with Buddy, Joey bolts for the nearest airport, but she realizes she is already too involved and returns the same night.
Buddy is torn between his attraction to Joey, his fear of the unknown, and his worries about Mack, who he feels he is somehow responsible for. Mack goes confidently and bumblingly through life, carefully hiding his secret fears.
The end of the road finds the three travelers in a driftwood shack on a secluded, rocky beach. Mack catches a final wave, and the other two must find a way to go on in life, together.