Vida Diferida (Life, Deferred)

A six-year, intimate journey into the life of a young, undocumented student and her family before, during and after DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)
Year Released
Film Length(s)
23 mins
Closed captioning available
Remote video URL


After the announcement of the policy known as "Deferred Action", Vanessa, an undocumented teenager, contemplates the possibility of a future she was ready to give up on. How will this life-changing opportunity impact her life and the lives of those around her?

Featured review

Avila Hanna brings an insider's heart and outsider's skill to bear on this portrait of one young woman whose undocumented status is shadowing her future. Poignant, eye-opening, and only hesitantly joyous, Vida Diferida should be required viewing in schools everywhere.
B Ruby Rich
UC Santa Cruz


This documentary film tells the story of Vanessa, a teenager born in Mexico who has lived in the United States with her family since she was six years old. Once an excelling middle-school student with big dreams of becoming a doctor, Vanessa begins to be haunted by her undocumented status as she reaches high school. Reconsidering her aspirations, Vanessa begins to give up on academics. Then, in the summer of 2012, President Obama approves the "Deferred Action" policy that would grant Vanessa immunity from being deported for the next two years, allow her to get a job and apply to college. Vanessa’s story offers a window into the DACA generation, the impact of this policy on a young person’s life and the new challenges ahead. As government policies take new turns with a new admnistration, Vida Diferida highlights the uncertainties haunting undocumented youth and their families in the USA .


The director brilliantly juxtaposes Vanessa's coming-of-age with immigration policies and practices at a larger scale, which, rather than help immigrant families reunite, have grown increasingly discriminatory and racist. Vanessa's personal cinematic vignette and the portrayal of her family's struggles to stay afloat invite classroom discussion on immigration policies and practices and their direct impact and influence at personal, local, state, and federal levels.
Luz Maria Gordillo
Films for the Feminist Classroom
(...) will move you to tears. The film shows how similar teens lives are no matter where in the country they live. Beautifully directed (...) able to capture the teenage voice as well as rich history of Mexican immigration to America
Kristen Lopez

Director Commentary

Vida Diferida begun as a yearly, end-of-the year compilation for a non-profit working with immigrant families. I was a Heritage Spanish teacher at the middle school where Vanessa attended and was also in charge of some community outreach events and communication with student’s families. Each passing year, a video compilation hoped to reveal the children’s growth and bring them closer to their academic and life goals. However, undocumented youth in the group had to learn how to slow themselves down, limit their aspirations and prepare for an adulthood to be spent in the shadows. As I compiled the life of Vanessa over several years, DACA happened. While there are wonderful sources and organizations bringing awareness to the DREAMers’ plight, this personal, coming-of-age visual testimony highlights family and community relations as an integral part of the experience. Over the course of the film, we share everyday events with the Martinez’s family; picnics, birthday parties and graduations of a tigh-knitted family trying to make the most out of life. Years go by, relationships come and go, but the clock is ticking as Vanessa runs out of options for her future. The film time span is also crucial for a deeper understanding of DACA and raises questions about the challenges ahead. I hope this film brings immigration conversations into a place where entire families are remembered in the context of their children, and that these children find support and encouragement from the audiences of this film.

Features and Languages

Film Features

  • Closed Captioning
  • Resources for Educators

Promotional Material

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