SANSON AND ME
Directed by Rodrigo Reyes
2022, 83 minutes
During his day job as a Spanish criminal interpreter in a small town in California, filmmaker Rodrigo Reyes (499) met a young man named Sansón, an undocumented Mexican immigrant who was sentenced to life in prison without parole. With no permission to interview him, Sansón and Reyes worked together over a decade, using hundreds of letters as inspiration for recreations of Sansón’s childhood—featuring members of Sansón's own family. The result is a vibrant portrait of a friendship navigating immigration and the depths of the criminal justice system and pushing the boundaries of cinematic imagination to rescue a young migrant's story from oblivion.
Below is an excerpt from director Rodrigo Reyes' statemnt on the film. CLICK HERE to read the full statement.
In 2012, about a year after I started working as a Spanish court interpreter in rural California, I was assigned to work on my first murder trial. I was very nervous because I understood the huge responsibility I was carrying to do the best job I could in a setting where the stakes could not be higher.
Enter Sansón, a 19-year-old kid who was very quiet and super-polite, facing some of the most serious charges you can imagine. I sat next to him for three weeks, side-by-side with a fellow Mexican migrant whose future was on the line—but I never got to hear his story. Everything was focused on a single moment, on the incident that brought him to court, but not on who he was or where he came from.
The idea for the film is really born out of the obstacles and limitations imposed by the criminal justice system. I was not allowed to film Sansón himself, because the argument was that being in a film is like giving him a reward for his crimes. So this led to a unique cinematic challenge: how do you make a film about someone without interviews, without archives? Even recording phone calls was impossible because the quality and timing was so bad. Sansón would sometimes go for months without being granted a call.
Subjects & Collections
2023 Cinema Studies Education Family Relations Immigration Latino Studies Sociology Criminal & Law Political Science
Festivals & Awards
WINNER – Best Film, Sheffield DocFest 2022
Official Selection - Tribeca Festival 2022
Official Selection – SFFilm Doc Stories 2022
"An ever-engaging, innovative and moving treatment of race, class, and the criminal-justice system."
- Hammer to Nail
PRISON TERMINAL: the last days of private jack hall
2014 Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Short Subject, Prison Terminal is an extraordinary chronicle of death and dignity behind bars, an incredibly moving story of a terminally ill prisoner's final days and the hospice volunteers (prisoners themselves) who care for him. Issues surrounding America's aging prison population and the profound impact hospice programs can have on the lives of the incarcerated are explored in this remarkable film.