Underwater Dreams at #DreaMIT Triumphs

Oct 26, 2014
6:48 PM

I have become highly skeptical of immigration movies. I don’t know why, but maybe it’s because our collective has received so many emails this year, that it suddenly feels like overkill.

Immigration rights is a “hot topic,” and while more and more projects have become real movies and even Oscar winners, very little has happened when it comes to real immigration reform.

The documentary genre has answered the call to focus more on immigrant rights. But is Main Street, USA responding with real action? Perhaps that real action will soon become reality now that Underwater Dreams is in this world.

This past Friday night, I was invited to a free screening of Mary Mazzio’s exquisite film hosted by #DreaMIT, a new immigrant rights group founded by MIT students, and held at the university’s iconic Building 10 (you know, the one with the big dome).

Having not seen the film (and knowing that it has gotten a lot of love, including from Colbert), I decided to attend. Then, when I was informed that the key members of #DreaMIT would be publicly announcing that they are MIT students who happen to be undocumented, I knew the night would be historic. The #Undocu community would now be part of one of the world’s most prestigious universities.

Before the screening, I talked with #DreaMIT’s José Gómez, an MIT sophomore from Texas who revealed that night that he was undocumented.

That was all before the screening started. Eventually, Room 10-250 lecture hall (think old-school college-like setup), was at capacity.

At this point, I could easily write a more detailed review of the film, which chronicles the story of how a group of Arizona high school students —children of Mexican immigrants— enter a robotics contest and defeat a host of college teams, including the favored MIT.

Here’s my review: Just go see this film. This film had it all, including narration by Michael Peña. It was a documentary, but it was dramatic, hilarious, poignant, real, moving and inspirational. It paid tribute to Arizona’s powerful immigrant youth movement, but also focused on the awkwardness of how colleges like MIT still come across as elitist and out of touch with the rest of the world.

If you still need to be convinced, I offer this:

Nonetheless, the fact that the film and the subsequent panel discussion happened at a place more suited for robotics than reform was not lost on me. The DREAMer movement had come to MIT. Will MIT listen?

The panel was excellent: Gómez, Mazzio, Junot Diaz (yes, Junot Diaz, a professor of writing at MIT), Renata Teodoro (you know who Renata is if you follow the immigrant rights movement) and Sofía Campos, an MIT grad student, a DreaMIT co-founder and board member of United We Dream.

Campos, a DreaMIT co-founder, was the spark behind the event. I spoke with her after the event.

I also spoke with Mazzio.

All the Rebeldes are rooting for #UnderwaterDreams. This film is that important.

And in case you’re still wondering, my skepticism has officially dissolved.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Julio (Julito) Ricardo Varela (@julito77) founded LatinoRebels.com in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. A 1990 Harvard graduate in the History and Literature of Latin America, his personal blog, juliorvarela.com, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond. He pens columns on LR regularly. In the last two years, Julito represented the Rebeldes on CBS’ Face the NationNPR,  Univisionand The New York Times. Recently, he was a digital producer for Al Jazeera America’s The Stream.