‘To walk in their shoes’
‘Amaraica’ inspired by immigration struggle of US filmmaker’s undocumented wife
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
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.”