Empowering documentary explores migration and mental health

“Stories about the triumph and empowerment of American immigrants are rarely addressed by the mainstream media,” said Peruvian-American documentary filmmaker Mabel Valdiviezo of Haiku Films.

A self-described phoenix rising from the ashes, former undocumented immigrant Valdiviezo explores how isolation, depression and healing can become sources of empowerment in her personal documentary film Prodigal Daughter (Hija Pródiga).

Identifying as a punk artist in the early 90’s, Valdiviezo briefly studied film until she escaped a violent and politically unstable Peru to seek a brighter future in the U.S.

New immigrant punk.
New immigrant punk.

“With no connection to my family, I found myself in a dark place. I had suicidal thoughts, but there was a pivotal moment when I realized I could not let my dreams die. I needed to become a filmmaker,” Valdiviezo said.

On Monday, Valdiviezo successfully concluded her $30,000 dollar campaign on journalism crowdfunding platform Beacon to fund the post-production of her film, which documents the intimate reunion with her family, sixteen years later.

Prodigal Daughter is part of Beacon’s Immigration Inner Circle, which consists of projects about immigration that receive 1:1 match funds if their campaign goal is reached.

Mabel and her siblings in Peru.
Mabel and her siblings in Peru.

“This film is relevant to the national conversation on immigration. Millions of people’s lives are being affected by the current immigration policy. We must start a dialogue on immigration reform to find a solution that benefits everyone,” said Valdiviezo.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, 19 million people identified as Hispanic or Latino immigrants in the U.S. in 2013.

A young Mabel with her Mom and Dad at the beach in Peru.
A young Mabel with her Mom and Dad at the beach in Peru.

“Valdiviezo’s story, and those of other immigrant women, reinforces the link between migration and mental health,” said Xotchil Castañeda, director of UC Berkeley’s Health Initiative of the Americas.

Addressing mental health is a personal and community-based transformation, according to Valdiviezo.
Addressing mental health is a personal and community-based transformation, according to Valdiviezo.

A cancer survivor, Valdiviezo is developing interactive screenings of the documentary, which will incorporate a healing art workshop, where viewers can participate in empowering art journaling activities and raise awareness about mental health issues at the community level.

Valdiviezo journaled about her cancer.

According to a 2013 survey conducted by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s youth high-risk behavior survey, 15.6 percent of Latina teens have attempted suicide one or more times in the U.S.

“It takes a community to address mental health issues. Latina youth well-being and mental health needs to be addressed in a deep, relevant way,” said Valdiviezo.

See the trailer for Prodigal Daughter (Hija Pródiga) here.

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Lover of coffee, books, golden hour and plane tickets. Freelance writer, photographer and videographer based in La Paz, Bolivia.

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