Creating an account with gives you access to more features and services, like our weekly newsletter and other special features just for the film community.

Large o jose antonio vargas facebook

A Two-Year-Old Documentary on Undocumented Immigration is Still Empowering Audiences to Share Their Stories

The 2013 documentary Documented recounts the rousing story of Jose Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who came out as an undocumented immigrant in a 2011 New York Times Magazine article. Co-directed by Ann Raffaela Lupo and Vargas himself, this timely chronicle of Vargas' childhood journey from the Philippines to America made the requisite festival rounds and garnered a quiet New York release in May of 2014. A respectable showing, but certainly not the wide and well-promoted premiere that a film of such vital and politically-resonant subject matter deserves.

Thanks to the far-reaching powers of Netflix, however, Documented has taken on a second, more accessible life and is slowly but steadily finding its viewers, many of whom are joining the thousands of people who have found the courage to declare their own undocumented status. In a Huffington Post piece posted this Tuesday, Julissa Arce, Director of Public Affairs at Vargas' official "coming out" campaign organization Define American, talks about how viewing Documented encouraged her to bravely share her own long-concealed story about being an undocumented immigrant. "My life was turned upside down after I watched Jose's documentary Documented," Arce tells Tribeca Film. "It had the power to change the course of my life."

Arce is continuing to campaign for a more accepting and open-minded treatment of undocumented Americans, joining Vargas and other public figures like Orange is the New Black actress Diane Guerrero (Maritza!), who volunteers with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and recently penned an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times about the deportation of her parents and brother back to Colombia during her adolescence.

Vargas himself has been avidly urging other members of the entertainment industry to lend a helping hand by outing themselves or sharing their own personal experiences of dealing with America's dispiriting attitudes towards illegal immigrants. The prestigious journalist and debut documentarian — who, as a very public symbol of undocumented immigration, has been arrested and detained on multiple occasions — realizes that putting a famously recognizable face on the frequently tarnished image of the illegal immigrant is one of the only ways in which America's contentious relations with its undocumented population can be repaired. But Vargas also realizes that film, print, and other widespread forms of mass media are eternally invaluable mobilization tools for all causes, but especially the fight for a broader re-defining of the American Dream.

Vargas' soul-stirring story is supplying an ever-growing amount of undocumented individuals with the necessary confidence and courage to speak out and speak loud. It's a wonder this story has been told at all. But now it's our turn as American audiences to tune in and listen up, to spread the word and spread it wide: watch Documented here.


What you need to know today