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Los Trabajadores/ The Workers

by Heather Courtney

The American paradox of immigrant labor

"We build the buildings, we do the hardest jobs, and still they don't want us." These are the words of Juan Ignacio, a Nicaraguan laborer profiled in the documentary Los Trabajadores/ The Workers, winner of the International Documentary Association's David L. Wolper Student Achievement Award. Through the stories of two men, Ramon and Juan, and through the controversy surrounding the relocation of a day labor site from downtown to a residential neighborhood, Los Trabajadores/ The Workers examines the misperceptions and contradictions inherent in America's paradoxical history of both dependence on and abuse of immigrant labor. While socio-political and economic issues provide the much-needed context, the film's spine and focus are Ramon and Juan, as well as the day labor site where they wait for work, as we follow a year in all three lives. Through the story of the day labor site moving into a residential neighborhood, we learn about some of the obstacles faced by immigrants, including the misconceptions that can lead to discrimination. Through Ramon and Juan, the complexities of immigration and labor issues are given a rarely seen human quality. "I came here illegally and this is against the law of the United States," says Ramon, a Mexican father of two, "but it is not against my law, nor is it against the law of my family. Even if they're American, they can't tell me I can't work to support my family." Ramon, his family, Juan, and other immigrants help to humanize an issue that has been terribly dehumanized in the mainstream media. Writes Michael King of the Austin Chronicle. "Everyone should see this film, the human underside of our relentless growth. Every filmmaker should see it as a testament to letting the story come to you." In addition to screening internationally at festivals, Heather Courtney has organized over 40 grassroots screenings of Los Trabajadores/ The Workers, in conjunction with immigrant rights groups and neighborhood associations all over Texas, at community centers, churches, schools, and libraries. She is available to do the same in your community. To set up a grassroots screening, or to access a study/discussion guide, please see In Spanish and English w/ English subtitles

Alison Macor
Austin American-Statesman
full review

quoteEveryone should see this film, the human underside of our relentless growth. Filmmakers should see it as a testament to letting the story come to you.
The Austin Chronicle

quotePoignant and moving
The Austin American Statesman


  • International Documentary Association David L. Wolper Student Achievement Award
  • Best of Show, Cinematexas International Short Film Festival
  • Audience Award, SXSW Film Festival , Austin, TX
  • First Place, Documentary, Next Frame Touring Festival of International Student Film and Video
  • First Place, Student Documentary, Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival
  • Humanities Award, Great Plains Film Festival, Lincoln, NE
  • Honorable Mention Premio Mesquite Documentary, CineFestival, San Antonio

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Los Trabajadores/ The Workers

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Special Features: In Spanish and English w/English Subtitles Bilingual version