WHAT WE LEAVE BEHIND follows Julian Moreno, the 89-year-old grandfather of filmmaker Iliana Sosa, on his monthly journey from Mexico to the U.S. For the past twenty years, he has taken a 17-hour bus ride every month from Primo de Verdad (a rural town in northern Mexico) to visit his family in El Paso, Texas and Albuquerque, New Mexico. He has worked hard his whole life: for many years as a farmer in Mexico, and as a bracero during the 1950s-60s. Braceros were agricultural workers brought to the U.S. from Mexico during a temporary labor shortage. While here, they were notoriously mistreated, then forcefully repatriated when American xenophobia began to escalate. The film is a testament to Moreno’s resilience in the face of terrible obstacles, and his unwavering commitment to family, regardless of the borders that divide us. Like the monarch butterfly, he always returns.
As a first-generation Mexican American, Sosa explores how immigration, intergenerational trauma, class and citizenship has impacted her family using Moreno’s bus ride as a way to discuss these different themes.
About the Filmmaker
Iliana Sosa is a documentary and narrative filmmaker born and raised in El Paso, Texas by Mexican immigrant parents, and holds a MFA in film production and directing from UCLA. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Hollywood Foreign Press Award, the National Hispanic Foundation of the Arts Scholarship, the Film Independent Project Involve Directing Fellowship, and Firelight Media’s Impact Producer Fellowship, among others. Iliana has been selected for the Berlinale Talents and Sundance’s Latino Screenwriting Project. Her films have screened at various film festivals and took home Best Short Film and the Texas Award at the USA Film Festival, a Jury Award for Best Texas Short at SXSW, and a Youth Jury Award at Aspen ShortsFest. She is a 2018-2019 Sundance Development Fellow with her first feature documentary, What We Leave Behind.