A film that examines the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (a.k.a. “The DREAM Act”), “Dreamer” has a definite ring of truth to it. Jesse Salmeron, director of this timely piece, said he drew inspiration for the title character from someone he knows in real life.
“She has an engineering degree-she graduated with honors-and she’s working at a dry cleaners. That’s a very true story for many of these people,” Salmeron said when reached by phone for an interview.
“Dreamer” tells the story of Joe Rodriguez, a hard-working college graduate played by Jeremy Ray Valdez. Joe also is an undocumented United States resident that came to this country as a child. Fearful about his status, this young man constantly struggles with his identity, especially whether to be called Joe or Jose.
One of his goals, Salmeron explained, was to portray an authentic, very real experience. “It comes across in our style-we kind of use a Cinema Verite style. I didn’t want an up ending or a down ending. I wanted a very truthful ending. It’s not exactly resolved, but it is their reality,” he said.
The timing of his film also was fortuitous. “We announced our premiere the day President Obama gave his speech on immigration,” Salmeron offered.
Dreamers facing an uncertain future
Though the original Dream Act died in the Senate, Congressional supporters are expected to reintroduce the bill later this year. Like real-life dreamers, the character of Joe struggles with his status and whether or not to be called Joe or Jose.
“I think that kind of shows the internal split personality that a lot of dreamers are facing,” Jeremy Ray Valdez explained while talking on the same conference line as Salmeron. “They are torn inside: ‘Who am I? I feel like I belong here. I am living here and this is the only home I know. At the same time I feel like an outsider.'”
Valdez went on to say that though a lot of his character was already on the page, some of it came from the director’s personal experiences. As a three-year-old, Salmeron arrived undocumented in the United States with his mother, but he was later granted protected status.
“I was really naïve about the whole subject until I sat down with Jesse and read the script,” Valdez said. [Joe] loves to work and I think that shows in the film. He says it: ‘I just want to work. I want to be a positive member of this society.’ He also has his flaws, but his core is coming from a good place, a hard-working place.”
Also a “Dreamer” producer, Valdez said that Salmeron and the crew could have made a documentary film about the subject.
“But Jesse is a feature film writer and director and he wrote a very interesting story. The film has heart and it comes from a very honest true place, but it is told in a captivating story. We go to the movies and we want to be entertained,” he explained. “I feel like it is a very entertaining film, and people that have seen it think it is very entertaining. It tells a true story about many, many people from all over the world living in America.”
“Dreamer” premieres March 2 at the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose, California. For more information on the film, please check out the official Facebook page.