6 movies about Migration directed by Central American women

Film production in the Central American isthmus shows a rapid and constant growth in recent years. Dr. María Lourdes Cortés Pacheco, a Costa Rica and Central American cinema historian highlighted in the First International Congress of Central American Film (2017) at the University of Costa Rica that, although during the nineties throughout Central America only one fiction film was produced (El Silencio de Neto, Guatemala, 1994), in the last 17 years, more than 200 films of all genres have been released. Authors such as Hispano Durón and Dr. Cortés point out that in the last ten years, more films have been made in Central America than in the entire 20th century. This without mentioning the important contributions of the cinema of the Central American diaspora in the world film industry.

Particularly, one of the phenomena most represented in Central American cinema has been that of migration, represented not from a roadmovie narrative in which the characters seek their identity, but as a present dynamic in our societies in the face of violence and poverty; that is, migration as a dream for better living conditions, opportunity and dignity.

On the occasion of the International Day of Migrants (18/12) and the closing of the third International Film Festival on Migration (GMFF) in which IOM screened in more than 100 countries, documentaries, feature films and short films that explore the issues of migration and human mobility; and with the purpose of rescuing the role of the region in the creation of stories and discussions on one of the most important phenomena of our times, we share six productions made by Central American women to understand migration in our region, in two senses:


The permanent representative of Mexico in the United Nations, Juan José Gómez-Camacho, points out that, in Latin America, 60% of migration occurs within the region, that is, most of the migration is South-South or intraregional. In the case of Central America, the migratory flow from Nicaragua to Costa Rica stands out and is reflected in the same way in Central American productions whose stories are based on this migration. Among these are the documentaries La mesa feliz by Ishtar Yasin (Costa Rica, 2005) and the feature film El último comandante by Isabel Martínez and Vicente Ferraz (Costa Rica / Brazil, 2010), as well as:

1. El Camino, Ishtar Yasin (Costa Rica, 2008)Saslaya, a 12 year old girl, escapes from her native Nicaragua with her little brother in search of their mother, who emigrated 8 years ago to neighboring Costa Rica. The fiction merges with documentary, poetry and reality.

El Camino is the first feature film by Costa Rican director Ishtar Yasin, which narrates the migration of two unaccompanied migrant children to Costa Rica. This fiction exposes some of the dangers they face, such as abuse of power and sexual exploitation. El Camino highlights the multi-causality of migration such as exploitation and even family reunification.

In Pantalla Rota: Cien años de Cine en Centroamérica, María Lourdes Cortés writes that the 90s brought with it new voices and social issues such as migration, ecology and the role of women at the forefront with documentary as the ideal genre to address these end-of-century issues.

Within this line of work is the docummentary Más allá de las fronteras (1998) by Maureen Jiménez which addresses the migration of adolescents, as well as the work by feminists directors that underscore the phenomenon of female migration such as:

2. Desde el barro al sur, María José Álvarez, Martha Clarissa Hernández (Nicaragua, 2002): Documentary film that records and sets the stage for Nicaragua, the forced journey of thousands of migrants and represents, through its characters, different strategies to survive in Costa Rica. For the most part, voices and images of women illustrate this story and describe the eternal journey that poverty makes of their lives. Migrants in their own land, victims of a post-war society and subject to the new economic order of the world market.



Similar to these Central American women, the main works of Salvadoran director Marcela Zamora Chamorro are documentary films in which she develops the theme of human rights and gender. Among her works is:

3. El Espejo Roto (2011), Marcela Zamora (El Salvador, 2011): The documentary reveals the violence that affects children in high risk communities in El Salvador, as well as the role of single mothers, heads of household in vulnerable environments and the social costs of migration. With the support of UNFPA, UNDP, IOM and UNICEF.

4. María en Tierra de Nadie, Marcela Zamora (México-El Salvador-España, 2010)An unprecedented and intimate look at the irregular and extremely dangerous journey of three Salvadoran women to the United States. Doña Inés, a 60-year-old woman, has been searching for her daughter for five years and is following the same route her daughter took. Marta and Sandra, tired of the violence of their husbands and wanting to overcome poverty, decide to leave their families behind to travel to the United States, with only thirty dollars in their pockets. During their heartbreaking trip, the three women encounter prostitution, human trafficking, rape, kidnapping and even death, in an unwavering quest for a better life.


Likewise, the documentary project of Casa en Tierra Ajena (2017), selected for our previous edition of the Global Migration Film Festival (2017), directed by Ivanna Villalobos and based on the book No más Muros, by Costa Rican academic Carlos Sandoval, investigates the main expulsion factors and control mechanisms that are imposed on migrants, as well as the solidarity that is woven without borders:

5. Casa en Tierra Ajena, Ivanna Villalobos (Costa Rica, 2017): Is a documentary that tells the stories and dreams of various people who are in process of forced migration in Central America. It also recovers the voices of those who have remained in their countries resisting and transforming their realities. (Watch here)

Finally, unlike the documentary film that has distinguished itself as an important genre to expose and explore the causes and high risk journeys of migration in our Central American countries, the Guatemalan director Gloria Griselda belonging to the diaspora in the United States, develops the following fiction feature film:

6. Ambiguity: Crónica de un Sueño Americano (Guatemala/EEUU, 2014): Ambiguity is an action, drama, suspense and adventure film that reveals the reality of irregular immigration to the United States.

According to Leonard Doyle, in charge of the IOM's Division of Communications and Media, "Film and migration have a historical link that stretches back more than a century as filmmakers, many of whom were migrants themselves, began making movies that depicted a world on the move". 

The GMFF feautres films and documentaries that capture the promise and challenges of migration, and the unique contributions that migrants make to their new communities. We hope that in the same way this list of films and documentaries will inform, inspire, transform and promote inclusion and respect for migrants, as well as the creation of a regional dialogue on migration in our societies.


GMFF Official Selection 2018



Turn on the microphones! Five keys to giving youth a voice on migration issues

Turn on the microphones! Five keys to giving youth a voice on migration issues
Categoria: Communication & Migration
Autor: Guest Contributor

Radio is still a medium that, especially in rural areas where access to the Internet is difficult, is still very much alive and shows itself to be an accessible alternative for the population. Whether in the car, in an app on the phone or in a device that only works with batteries in the most remote areas, the radio is there a few steps away and almost effortlessly. Entertaining us, informing us and accompanying our daily activities. From the largest cities to the most sparsely populated municipalities, radio is an industry that generates jobs and is vital for the dissemination of mass messages to a wide variety of audiences.

How can radio be harnessed as an avenue to empower young people about migration?

After seeing the high impact that this media has on the culture of our communities, these are some actions to be taken that will allow us to bring the message of regular, orderly and safe migration to a youth who may be victims of crimes associated with irregular migration:

  • Find out about community radio or radio stations in your city: This will help you to know all the spaces that exist within the community and to identify the audiences they are aimed at in order to choose the right channel that connects with young people.
  • Identify young leaders in their communities with communication skills: There is no better way to communicate with youth than through voices they can empathize with and identify with.
  • Create content that connects: Talking about migration does not require a serious or monotonous tone. Try to create short but effective messages with easy to understand language and prioritizing the use of storytelling instead of communicating concepts.
  • Create your own online radio station: The radio has undergone a significant evolution in recent years and proof of this is that the number of Internet radio stations has been increasing, which has led to the democratization of radio. You no longer need big budgets to have your own radio station and broadcast different contents 24 hours a day, this is a good alternative if there are not or do not have access to have space on traditional radio stations.
  • Develop empowering initiatives: Young people possess many talents: dynamism, fast learning and, of course, a lot of creativity. Therefore generating training spaces on radio production issues will help to discover hidden talents and form new opinion leaders, without leaving behind the importance of also empowering them on migration issues, this will allow them to transmit better messages that promote a safe, orderly and regular human mobility and will help them themselves to make better decisions regarding migration.

A success story of such activities is 'Youth on the Airwaves', a workshop on radio and migration that harnesses the energy of young people who are leaders in their communities and shows them the potential of the radio industry as a method of generating livelihoods and making their voices heard.

As a product of this initiative, the young people created their own radio spots to promote a better informed migration, from the ideation of the creative concept, script development, voice-over practice, recording and editing, in all these processes they received the support of both IOM staff and a team of experts in radio production.

A few years ago, former United Nations Secretary Ban Ki-moon stressed that "radio is very important to make the voice of youth heard, it stimulates the imagination and shortens the distances between people". One more reason to bring the media closer and generate spaces for youth in order to disseminate messages aimed at providing the population with sufficient and verified information that will allow them to make better decisions before embarking on a migratory route.