The U Turn tells the story of a group of Guatemalan immigrant women and children  who broke the silence about the abuses committed against them at the Agriprocessors, Inc plant in Postville, Iowa and -thanks to the solidarity of the community that accompanied them and to the U Visa- transformed their lives.

“THE U TURN brings us back to the beginning of (Luis Argueta’s  immigration) trilogy to give credence to the memory, the struggle for justice, and the willingness to continue to raise the voice in the name of the rights of immigrants. Within the present anti-immigrant context that is lived in the modern world, this trilogy is an indispensable resource to contemplate the face of immigration.”

Esteban Loustaunau, Assumption College Worcester Massachusetts
Synopsis: 

The U Turn, the third documentary of Luis Argueta’s immigration Trilogy, tells the story of a group of Guatemalan Immigrant women and children, who lost their fear of speaking out about the abuses committed against them at the Agriprocessors, Inc plant in Postville, Iowa and - thanks to the solidarity of the community that accompanied them and to the U-visa - transformed their lives.

The U Visa is a immigration remedy - part of the Violence Against Women Act  (VAWA 2000) - created to assist authorities in engaging victims of crimes of violence and to protect unauthorized immigrant victims of such crimes.

The women of The U Turn are precursors of the #MeToo movement.

Reviews

“It is profoundly satisfying to me to think that my stories about Postville in The New York Times helped inspire your sustained, important documentary work about the raids and their aftermath. It was exciting to see the final film, with the good news about the favorable outcomes for some of the immigrants and your role in making that happen.”

Julia Preston, Contributing Writer The Marshall Project

(Luis Argueta’s Immigration Trilogy of films) “makes an interesting contribution to the debate on migration, providing a human face to the inequality of opportunities. The three films reveal the factors that drive migration and particularly the human impacts - something academic literature is much less able to do.”

Jur Schurman European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies 105 (2018) January - June
Director's Commentary: 

I am an immigrant. I was born and raised in Guatemala, a country that I love dearly but where I felt that I could not breathe. Even though the reality I saw around me included immense social injustices, marked race and class divisions, racism and great economic inequality -from the time I was born- fear was bred in me and I was taught not to question the status quo.

As a sophomore at the university in Guatemala, I applied and received a full four-year scholarship to study engineering at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor was the complete opposite of Guatemala. Everyone there was questioning everything. Everyone was speaking out, against racism, against poverty, against the Vietnam War. Slowly, as I began to feel I could breathe, I began to lose my fear of speaking out. At that time, I also re-discovered my first loves: literature and film. After taking a Super 8mm film course, I directed my first short film, a 7 minute black-and-white experimental piece, which was screened at the Ann Arbor Film Festival. For the first time in my life, I felt that I had something to say and that I had found a way to express myself.

After graduating from Engineering school and obtaining a masters degree in literature, I went to Europe and  worked in The Tree of Guernica, Fernando Arrabal’s  feature film about the Spanish Civil War. In 1967 I moved to New York to pursue a career in the film industry. I worked my way up from being a production assistant to eventually starting my own company, where I produced and directed commercials for Fortune 500 companies. However, after the events of 9/11, I realized that I had pawned my soul and set out to try to save the little piece that I hoped I still had left. For the first time since my Ann Arbor days, I picked up a camera and began filming myself. I’d interview Guatemalan immigrants in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, edit those interviews into short video portraits, and post them on-line in a web series I titled “Voices of Silence.”

As an immigrant myself, I was aware of some of the immigration procedures in the US, and through these short conversations with immigrants I was developing a bigger interest in the subject; however, I realized how ignorant I was of immigration policies and enforcement practices.

In 2008, I read a New York Times exposé about an immigration raid in Postville, Iowa (population 2000). I learned that in one morning, 900 federal agents, with the support of helicopters and state troopers, at a cost of $5.2 million, surrounded the largest kosher meatpacking plant in the country, and arrested 389 unauthorized workers, mainly from Guatemala and Mexico. These immigrants were summarily processed, sent to prison for five months, and then deported.  I could not believe that all this was happening in the twenty-first century, in the United States of America. So, with the intention of staying four days and curating short interviews for my web series, I flew to Iowa to see it for myself.

In Postville I met women who spoke out about the daily humiliation and psychological torture of having to wear electronic ankle bracelets they could not remove even to take a shower; children talking about their grueling 12-14-hour-days working under dangerous conditions; and activists calling for comprehensive immigration reform, family reunification and just labor practices. The power of the testimonies I heard from the immigrants and the commitment to social justice of so many and so diverse people, made me realize the importance of the events I was witnessing and the complexity of the story that I had in front of me. To tell this story, would require more than a 4-day trip to Postville.  I stayed for 2 weeks and then, during the following two and a half years, I returned 28 more times. The material compiled during that time would become a feature documentary film: abUSed: The Postville Raid. That film would eventually become the first in a trilogy of immigration documentaries about the Postville raid, its cascading effects on the community, and the broken USA  immigration system. I followed up abUSed with ABRAZOS and, finally, The U Turn.

In The U Turn, we see how immigrants perform the heroic act of breaking the silence in times of fear. This heroic act is made possible within the safe space created by individuals, communities and organizations who welcome the strangers arriving from far away. By opening their homes and their hearts to the immigrants, and by walking along with them in times of dire need, these individuals, these communities and these organizations are performing an act of solidarity, achieving social justice and rekindling faith in our shared humanity.

During the past ten years I have had the privilege of being allowed inside the homes of immigrant families who have shared their meals and their life-stories with my crew and me. During those meals and those conversations we have compared dreams, fears and hopes; we have laughed together, we have cried together, and we have realized how similar our dreams and fears and hopes are. I have witnessed the migrants absolute dedication to their families, their incredibly strong work ethic and their unshakeable faith. I have come to understand that the life-stories of these immigrant families are the same stories of millions of immigrant families throughout the history of the world -who have left everything in search of a future, in search of a life. At this time, when strong winds of intolerance are blowing, when fear is raising its disgraceful head, and when voices from the highest places calling for isolationism are heard throughout the land, we must remember the words of Pastor David Vasquez-Levy in The U Turn: “Silence gives power to the abusers. By speaking out, you take the power away from the abusers.”