The Other Side
By Amyn Kaderali
The film opens in a destitute, empty desert town in the year 2040. A radio report in Spanish gives us a glimpse of the situation: the unemployment rate is at 86 percent, gangs are running rampant, and food and water are desperately scarce. The days of mega-malls, cheeseburgers and milkshakes are a decade in the past; now only poverty and desperation remain.
Jeff is a desperate father plotting his escape with his two kids, Tyler and Jenny, to the other side of the border, where there are jobs and food and wealth. They climb into the back of a commercial truck, hoping to be smuggled across, and are soon joined by a gun and drug smuggler. Things go awry when a border guard suspects the driver to be carrying more than clothes and toys.
Narrowly escaping before the guard can stop the driver, the stowaways must find other means of making it across. The family trudges over steep, dry terrain toward the border fence. They dodge vigilantes who hunt for human targets along the fence. If their water or their luck dries up, they could die of exposure.
As they try in vain to scale the border fence, they are spotted by another border guard. Just as they think their flight is over, the gun smuggler they met earlier rescues them and shows them a culvert that passes under the fence.
They emerge safely on the other side, a land of opportunity and prosperity called ... Mexico. While a bigoted politician rails against the influx of illegal Americans entering the country and taking jobs, the kids are reunited with their mother, who had sought refuge earlier in a nearby church.
Inspired by the current immigration debate in the U.S., writer-director Amyn Kaderali’s film The Other Side seeks to provoke American audiences into considering a different perspective: What if we Americans were one day immigrating ourselves? Would we want to be treated the same way Latino immigrants are treated here? Kaderali hopes his film will serve as a warning to those in America who fail to realize that one day they too could be desperately crossing into another country in the hopes of a better life for themselves and their families.
At first, I assumed FUTURESTATES was going to be a science-fiction series, which is not really my type of stuff. But I figured it couldn’t hurt to brainstorm a little. The request for proposals called for shorts set in the future but based on issues of today. I sat down and wrote down every issue I could think of: education, poverty, health care, avian flu, swine flu, terrorism, the death of real news, etc. I also wrote down the word “immigration.”
I thought about the current immigration debate in our country. It seemed ironic to me that so many people were angry about illegal immigration, despite two glaring facts: First, all Americans (with the exception of Native Americans) are immigrants, were immigrants, or our ancestors were immigrants. Second, Americans depend on immigrants, particularly illegal immigrants, to do many of the jobs most Americans don’t want to do. But what was more striking was the unabashed anger (and racism) of those that wanted to get rid of them. We even have the Minutemen, who proudly hunt down illegal immigrants along the border.
Why do people come here? As the child of immigrants, the answer seemed pretty obvious to me — for a better life for themselves and their kids.
But that wasn’t much of a story. I racked my brain. What were we as Americans not getting about this issue? I kept scribbling down ideas until it finally came to me — what if one day Americans were immigrants again? While it may seem preposterous to some, I couldn’t help but feel that we Americans live in fragile times. Our economy seemed to be on the brink of collapse. Schools are failing. Health care costs are strangling everyone. Would it be so strange if a few decades from now Americans were willing to cross illegally into another country for a better life? And if they did, how would they like it if they were treated the same way we treat illegal immigrants in the U.S. today?
My first instinct was to consider a story about a family trying to get to Canada, but that didn’t feel strong enough. No, we were going to have to turn the tables here in a more pronounced and ironic direction. We went pretty much as far as we could go (in the context of a short film). I predict some people who watch The Other Side will laugh at the ending but I do hope that they also get the point: we should treat others the way we may want to be treated one day. That’s not too hard to understand.
— Amyn Kaderali, Director
The first day of a film shoot is always challenging, so the smart strategy is to make day one a little easier than the rest. That was the plan, anyway.
The troubles … er … challenges, started at 7:15 AM. I pulled up outside Vasquez Rocks, a Los Angeles County park in Santa Clarita to find six or seven cars and trucks parked along the shoulder. I thought that was good (people were there early!) until I saw the angry park ranger walking up to my car. She had specifically told us on the location scout a few weeks earlier that we could not have any cars outside the park before the gates opened at 7:30 AM. Oops. We had forgotten about that. I immediately told the crew to drive their cars a half mile down the road, where we waited for another 15 minutes while calling the rest of the crew and warning them not to show up before 7:30. Off to a good start!
The gate opened, the cars filed in, and the crew gathered to hear a safety speech from the park ranger and the fire marshal. I looked around at my new crew. Everyone was in fine spirits and ready to work. Even some of my cast were there early. The only problem seemed to be that the production RV wasn’t there. No changing rooms or places to do makeup, etc. I hid my dismay and focused on a solution; we would get the actors dressed in the back of the art department truck. Problem solved.
Because my film takes place in a desert-like terrain, I had decided to shoot the film after Labor Day, figuring August would be too hot. I was wrong. The first day was as hot as they get — 105 degrees! It continued to be about that hot for the entire four days of our shoot, but fortunately, the cast was up for the challenge (they were determined to use the heat in their performance), and we had plenty of water for everyone. But it was brutal.
The cast and crew worked their butts off in the heat, and after a few hours was cranking along efficiently. We were even making good time until I was informed that one of our child actors had to leave an hour earlier than we had expected. There was no way to make all of our scenes before 3 PM! We did the best we could, but we still had one scene to go when I had to let young Jake go. What to do? There was no choice but to shoot the scene without him and hope we could get a shot of him later that would fit (by the way, we did). It was a tense scene, with the family hides behind a rock while the bad guys idle in a truck nearby. Have they seen the family hiding or not? Just standing there beside the cameras, we could feel the tension.
It felt scary. It felt good. We were making a movie.
— Amyn Kaderali, Director
Producer / Writer / Director
A graduate of the prestigious NYU Tisch School of the Arts graduate film program, Amyn Kaderali is a recipient of the Martin Scorsese Young Filmmaker Award and the Perry Ellis Breakthrough Filmmaker Award. His short films have won awards worldwide and he has written several screenplays for producers and major studios, including Miramax/Dimension Films. His latest film, the feature romantic comedy Kissing Cousins won the Audience Choice Award at the 2008 Asian American International Film Festival and was released in August. Kaderali has also worked extensively in television, most recently as a director-producer for the upcoming reality TV shows Greenspace and Crash Course to Stardom.
Jonathan McHugh’s career has spanned 25 years of work in film, TV, and music with creative positions at industry leaders including New Line Cinema, Sony/Jive, Elektra, and A&M Records. He has produced films for Paramount, Lionsgate, and Lifetime and television shows for Discovery and Fuse. McHugh has been music supervisor for dozens of films and produced many gold and platinum soundtracks including The Wedding Singer, Rush Hour, Blade, Empire Records, and Don Juan DeMarco.
Brady Smith — “Jeff”
A veteran of several independent films including Ice Dreams and Forever, Brady Smith also has an extensive television resume, including guest star roles on The Mentalist, Las Vegas, NCIS, The Closer, and many others.
Jon Huertas — “Scorpio”
A star of ABC’s hit show Castle as well as HBO’s recent Generation Kill, Jon Huertas has appeared in countless television shows including JAG, Nash Bridges, Prison Break, CSI, and Cold Case. A former soldier, Jon was also recently a co-producer on the film The Insatiable.
Abigail Mavity — “Jenny”
The youngest in a family of 10, 16-year-old Abigail is a rising talent with recent roles on The Mentalist, Zeke and Luther, and Navy NCIS. In 2003 she was nominated for a Young Artist Award for Best Performance in a TV Comedy or Drama Series — Guest Starring Young Actress 10 or Under.
Jake Short — “Tyler”
Born in Indianapolis, Jake is best known for his breakout role as Nose Noseworthy in the recently released Robert Rodriguez film Shorts.
Daniel Zacapa — “Felix”
Honduran-born Daniel Zacapa's varied film roles include Se7en (1995), Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002), The Mexican, The Gene Generation, and Phenomenon. His television credits include starring for three seasons on the Showtime series Resurrection Blvd. and his numerous guest-star appearances include, Medium, Alias, Nip/Tuck, The West Wing, Criminal Minds, Without a Trace, Six Feet Under, and NYPD Blue. He was a recipient of an ALMA Award in 1998 for his work in Foto Novelas.