Albuquerque Journal

‘To walk in their shoes’

‘Amaraica’ inspired by immigratio­n struggle of US filmmaker’s undocument­ed wife

- BY ADRIAN GOMEZ JOURNAL ARTS EDITOR

Tim Sparks works with stories that pique his interest. With his latest film, “Amaraica,” he used his personal experience to write and direct the project. The film was picked up by HBO and will be aired beginning Friday, Sept. 3.

“In brief, when my wife and I were married, she was undocument­ed,” Sparks says. “We had a child together, and she spent years on her journey to citizenshi­p. It could have gone in an entirely other direction. We were the lucky ones.”

“Amaraica” is Sparks’ directoria­l debut. He was also inspired by the inhumane practice of child separation at the

U.S.-Mexican border.

The film follows Roberto Hernandez, an undocument­ed roofer who is seeking to obtain his papers through marriage but is thwarted from his goal when his ex-girlfriend shows up nine months pregnant claiming he is the father.

In an effort to prove to his would-be fiancée that it isn’t his child, he agrees to a paternity test.

When he discovers he is the father, his mind transforms from self-absorbed to willing to do anything to protect his daughter.

As an undocument­ed father, he struggles to maintain the status quo as

the environmen­t becomes increasing­ly hostile toward them. Choosing to do the right thing for the sake of his child, he abandons the only path toward his lifelong goal of experienci­ng the American dream, yet it’s his daughter, Amara, who pays the ultimate price.

Sparks says he had never thought about the undocument­ed people and what they have to deal with.

“Being exposed to that community, I developed a great deal of empathy and respect,” he says. “I felt like I always wanted to make a narrative and give viewers a chance to walk in their shoes through my words.”

Sparks began writing the film in 2018, and it was filmed in 2019.

With the pandemic setting in, the film had a short film festival run. HBO eventually picked it up and gave Sparks more hope that people will see it.

“We played at the Santa Fe Film Festival,” he says. “I was afraid it was going to fall by the wayside until HBO picked it up. We had won three best pictures at different film festivals. It resonated with audiences.”

Production took place in Tijuana, Mexico; Borrego Springs, California; Fort Worth, Texas; and El Paso.

Sparks was close to filming in New Mexico.

“We did location scouts out there, and I loved the area,” he says. “We chose El Paso because it’s right on the border.”

Sparks is also partnering with the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services in Texas.

“It’s a nonprofit advocacy group that does pro bono work for detained families at the border,” he says. “We’re helping utilize the film to help support children that are in detention. This is the ultimate point of the film.”

Sparks recalls having to travel to Juárez during his wife’s immigratio­n process.

It was him, his wife and

child who made the journey.

“While I personally wasn’t at risk, the fear those looming

shadows cast upon my family were,” he says. “Breaking news of child separation and

detention at the border went from being matters of political opinion to matters of strategic informatio­n and survival. And while my experience didn’t end in the tragic child separation portrayed in my film, ‘Amaraica,’ I’ve been grafted into the community of undocument­ed individual­s who are tragically affected everyday by inhumane practice and policy at the U.S. border.”

 ?? COURTESY OF SPARKSTAR ?? Aldo Verástegui and Karina Lechuga star in “Amaraica,” which takes a look at child separation at the U.S.-Mexican border.
COURTESY OF SPARKSTAR Aldo Verástegui and Karina Lechuga star in “Amaraica,” which takes a look at child separation at the U.S.-Mexican border.
 ?? COURTESY OF SPARKSTAR ?? Aldo Verástegui as Roberto and Karina Lechuga as Juana in “Amaraica.”
COURTESY OF SPARKSTAR Aldo Verástegui as Roberto and Karina Lechuga as Juana in “Amaraica.”
 ??  ?? Karina Lechuga hides underneath a house in a scene from “Amaraica.”
Karina Lechuga hides underneath a house in a scene from “Amaraica.”
 ?? COURTESY OF SPARKSTAR ?? A coyote, left, speaks to Aldo Verástegui and Karina Lechuga in a scene from “Amaraica.”
COURTESY OF SPARKSTAR A coyote, left, speaks to Aldo Verástegui and Karina Lechuga in a scene from “Amaraica.”
 ??  ?? Children are held in a detention center in the film “Amaraica,” which airs on HBO.
Children are held in a detention center in the film “Amaraica,” which airs on HBO.
 ??  ?? Aldo Verástegui and Karina Lechuga in a scene from “Amaraica.”
Aldo Verástegui and Karina Lechuga in a scene from “Amaraica.”

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