Santiago lives with his family in California after immigrating from Mexico many years ago. One day, he gets in his car and starts to make a trip South- his destination unclear. Because he’s undocumented the drive can be risky, and we watch Santiago navigate the journey. At the same time, Elena, an older woman living in Mexico, begins to pack her things for a journey North, embarking on a long bus ride to Tijuana.
Santiago and Elena, mother and son, reunite at the beach on opposite sides of the Mexico-US border where the wall stretches out into the ocean to share a brief afternoon together before each returns to their separate lives in their own countries.
ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
We are a team of film professionals and recently graduated film students from the University of California, Santa Barbara. The Golden Cage is a short narrative film highlighting the stories of families who are separated by the Mexican-American border wall. To authentically capture the journey of both characters in the film, one north through Mexico and one south through America, the crew traveled to both countries to shoot the film in the fall of 2020.
You’ve been in a sort of cage your whole life in Mexico- a cage of poverty with no chance to make a better life- but it’s not until you get to the U.S. that you realize you’re trapped in a new cage, just one with shinier railing.
Growing up in a family with someone who’s undocumented, I never thought too hard about his decision. I noticed small things, like how he was hesitant to interact with strangers or drive at night. But it was only when I got older that I realized what he had to leave behind; you’re not just leaving your hometown, you’re leaving your parents behind to start a new family in a new country. In a way though, you’re not setting out to make a better life for yourself; you’re trying to provide the opportunity of something better for the next generation. You have to put yourself and your family aside indefinitely, maybe forever.
I never lived this struggle, but I saw someone firsthand put their whole life on hold just to ensure my family was better off. This film doesn’t show us that day to day existence, but rather shows one of the few moments where they can hit the unpause button on their own life. Santiago’s journey down to see his mother is a rare moment where we see a glimpse into who he was in Mexico, and where he came from.
I hope this film can help us better understand the sacrifices made by those who move to this country- sacrifices that often mean only seeing their mother through the bars of a wall that traps people on opposite sides of a barrier
- Francisco Lopez, June 2020