When picturing the rolling landscape of wine country, picturesque leisure comes to most minds: people basking in a bounty of fresh air while clinking their glasses of wine, mumblings of salute exchanged wistfully. Many will fail to pose the question of how this wine came to be, blissfully unaware of the working hands that have constructed the perfect scene before them — erring in thinking magic is behind it all.
It’s not magic. Nor is it from nothingness. There’s backbreaking work surrounding each aromatic pour and tasting. It’s easy to overlook as this work occurs behind the scenes, commencing at an hour many are still in bed. It’s work that’s hidden in plain sight but should be recognized, discussed, even questioned — something that filmmaker, Claudia Meza sought to pose in the original film she created for Marmoset’s fifth annual A/VEC 5 showcase.
Meza’s mission was to offer insight into this generation of migrant laborers, following the story in a ‘day in the life’ terms — the film opens on an early morning backdrop, we’re visually introduced to unnamed workers who hustle in a way that’s unprecedented by what you’d commonly see in any office environment. There’s a ferocity and propelling drive that catapults the subjects forward, it becomes nearly impossible to focus on any single person. In a way this is intentional, Meza aspiring to present the facts while still protecting identities.
“The reason I wanted to make this, I wanted to know what a migrant worker does because we hear so much about migrant laborers, undocumented workers, Mexican immigrants,” says Meza. “But we have no clue what is actually going on. Trabajo pesado, what that means is “hard work,” it means heavy work. And whenever your parents tell you to study, or tell you what they’re doing for you so you don’t have to do — trabajo pesado.”
As Marmoset’s A/VEC series is constructed around the premise of music and picture working together to create a single experience, there’s something deeply profound in they way Mendoza’s score (Y La Bamba) resonates seamlessly with the visuals. An impressive feat considering neither artist was allowed to communicate with one another leading up to the screening (naturally, part of the entire A/VEC premises).
While this unknowingness of one another’s identities throughout their individual creative process existed, there is an unshaken connecting thread of understanding — there’s clearly an unspoken recognition of the film’s weight and a shared compassion for what the visuals exposed that Mendoza registered. Despite Meza’s intentional decision to omit vocals captured on the day of filming, the context hits home through Mendoza’s lyrics within her original song titled, “The Screams.”
“It’s not so often that this gets to be presented in my music scene,” says Mendoza. “I feel like my life, my parents’ lives — and I know some of us here too that can also relate — how our lives and our stories are being magnified.”
Mendoza recounts her family lineage entwined with a similar kind of physical labor, her story is similar to Meza’s and to those featured in the film. And while neither artist knew who was on the opposite side of this collaboration, both shared a similar personal journey and appreciation of the previous generation’s trabajo pesado.
“We have always lived and carried this knowledge, this is part of living and breathing and surviving, and it’s something really rewarding but it breaks me in front of you to share this and actually exercise what’s been killing me for so long. It’s like this emotional awareness.”
As the event enters its Q&A portion, questions revolving around ‘what’s next’ fill the room. A stirring statement is made by a member of the audience thanking Meza and Mendoza for sharing art that speaks volumes within our rugged political landscape. The attendee reverses the ‘what’s next’ inquiry, prompting fellow audience members to ask themselves what they can do rather than placing the weight of responsibility solely on the artists.
Marmoset commends these artists for allowing their art-form to speak for those who often go without a voice. In an effort to assemble in what we can do together, we’ve listed resources and references in support of America’s migrant workers.