JOSE AND MR. RAMOS
ABOUT THE FILM
In East of Salinas, we meet a bright boy and his dedicated teacher, both sons of migrant farm workers. With parents who are busy working long hours in the fields, third grader Jose Ansaldo often turns to his teacher, Oscar Ramos, for guidance. But Jose is undocumented. Like many migrant children, as Jose grows older he is beginning to understand the complexities of the situation before him.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
Laura Pacheco is an award-winning filmmaker, anthropologist and media activist. She takes on big issues such as public health, justice and the environment using personal narratives to do the storytelling. In the Emmy Award-winning series "Rx for Survival" (PBS), she followed young women dying of drug resistant TB in the slums of Lima, Peru. She followed evangelical Christians protesting mountaintop removal in Kentucky in "Renewal," a film on faith and the environment. In the US, she worked with MoveOn.org to create a film and animation series that questioned the changing roles of motherhood in America. She is passionate about using film to encourage conversation. Her films have taken her to the jungles of Guatemala, the rivers of west Africa and the tops of the Himalayas. In addition to PBS, her work has been shown on Discovery, The National Geographic Channel, International Climate Talks and in classrooms around the world.
Producer, Director, Director of Photography
Jackie Mow produced news in France, chased ambulances for local TV news and reported for public radio. Passionate about science and education, she eventually landed a job at "NOVA," PBS' flagship science series. She went on to produce and direct for National Geographic, the Discovery Channel and PBS Kids. Mow has made films with a great diversity of subjects: the dog genome, Arctic dinosaurs, tunnel engineering and more. She worked on "World in the Balance," a film about population policy. Shooting that film took her to a Nairobi slum, where she profiled a young woman with HIV who was looking after her five orphan siblings. Mow then worked on several films exploring the psychology of adolescent girls and women. Among them was "A Girl's Life," a documentary focusing on personal stories of cyber-bullying, violence and body image.
There are certain people in the world who change the lives of everyone around them. Oscar Ramos is one of them. A third grade teacher in Salinas, California, Ramos acts as a mentor to his student Jose Ansaldo and to all those who take his class. PBS spoke with Laura Pacheco and Jackie Mow, directors of the film, to learn more.
PBS: Let’s start from the beginning. This film takes place over a span of four years. What was the creative process behind the initial concept for this project? Did you always know you would come back to Jose and Mr. Ramos’s story years later?
LAURA PACHECO: I think like all films, there was an evolution between the original idea and what we ended up doing. We thought we’d just do one year with Mr. Ramos and Jose, but we realized we have such great access to a community that’s not widely seen on television and it was really interesting to see how Jose evolved over a few years.
JACKIE MOW: He was only eight when we started and we realized in interviewing him it was a little difficult because he couldn’t formulate his ideas quite yet. And over time that really developed with him and he really thought about his situation.
PBS: Mr. Ramos’s students clearly adore him – they were even sad to take off for vacation because they didn’t want to leave him. What do you feel it is about Mr. Ramos that captivates his students?
JACKIE: For me he comes from the same background and he really understands their situation. He never talks down to them. He’s like a fatherly figure for them because a lot of them don’t see their parents for long periods of time. Their fathers go away for six months so he’s still in that role. They do say that. I remember seeing on one wall [in the classroom] that one of the kids said, “You’re like a father to me.”
LAURA: He knows where they came from and he relates to them and he relates to their families. But also to help the parents — he tries to get the parents involved because I think, again coming from a Mexican family, he would say no one would talk to us about school growing up. He knows how it’s important to involve the parents and tries to bring them in.
PBS: Jose is very well spoken for a boy so young. What was it like meeting and working with him on this project?
JACKIE: We started out with three kids but it became really clear that Jose had the straight story and he was quite eloquent even for an eight-year-old, and he’s a really loveable person. The person you see on screen is Jose. He’s a really kind, giving person and he really loves his family. We were just attracted to that story. He was just so amazing.
LAURA: He is the boy you see on screen. He’s so open and as was his family as well which was helpful. It was a joy to spend time with him and his family. At the end of our shoot there’s a scene where we ask he’s ever been to the beach. And he’s never been and we really wanted to take him and his brother and sister to the beach and we drove out to Monterey and they’d never seen it.
We went to buy an ice cream — it was like a sweet ice cream shop with dipped cones and chocolate and waffle cones, and they didn’t know and couldn’t choose a flavor. Jose and his sister turned to Jackie and I, and they had their chocolate covered cones, and asked, “Where do you put it?” And we said, you know, you could eat that. They had no idea they could eat it. Even though they’re so close to this world they’re separate.
PBS: What was it like to see Jose progress and what do you hope to achieve with his story?
LAURA: It was just really beautiful to see him evolve because he’s still the same kid as he was when he was eight. He’s still studying hard and he wants to go to college and wants to be a productive member of society. He wants to give back and he loves learning. That’s just nice to see that boy that was eight — he’s still that kid even though today there’s so much going against. There’s gang violence. His mom is a single mom at the moment. He gets no support other than school. He hasn’t lost his love for learning. I think that’s really nice to see. We hope that other people see this film and they realize that kids like Jose deserve a chance to participate in our country.
JACKIE: We’re not trying to make a statement. There are a lot of kids like Jose – he’s not that unusual — but there are a lot of kids in that class full of hope and have the same kind of dreams that Jose did. He’s still really thriving. Everyone is hoping legislation will in some way affect him but we never know.
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