Mija Image

Mija

By Kyle Bain | January 21, 2022

SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! Mija is the true story of Doris Muñoz, the first American-born member of her undocumented family. Doris works in music management with a young, up-and-coming singer, Jacks Haupt, who is the first American-born individual in her family. Director Isabel Castro tells the story of Muñoz as she and Haupt journey through life and deal with the guilt of knowing the rest of their families are in perpetual danger. As Muñoz navigates her career, family, and the struggles of the real world, she tries to remain optimistic and come out on top.

As we navigate the story, a controversial topic is brought to light: undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Whether I agree or disagree with the ideas presented throughout the film is irrelevant because I’m here for Castro’s talents as a director. The reality is that there will be viewers whose opinion of the documentary will be swayed one way or another based on how they feel about such a hot-button issue. Unfortunately, that limits the number of fold who will appreciate what the movie accomplishes. However, the director refuses to let the potential naysayers stop her, and that’s a testament to the filmmaker’s passion, vigor, and refusal to yield to the power of the skeptics.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

“…the true story of Doris Muñoz, the first American-born member of her undocumented family.”

I often wonder how in a documentary, where people are followed throughout their day-to-day life, the crew captures the reality of the subjects and not some fabricated version of the truth. I hate cameras, and I know I would find it difficult to be my true self if I were the subject. I imagine that there have to be others who feel the same about being on camera as I do. Impressively, Mija captures the true essence of everyone involved, and nothing appears to be falsified or altered for false dramatics. I obviously can’t determine how Doris Muñoz or any other individuals on-screen felt during filming, but how Castro depicts every person feels real, and I appreciate that.

I’ll be honest, and I know this sounds harsh, but I’m not sure that the topic at hand in Mija warrants a feature-length documentary. The content itself isn’t uninteresting, exactly, but is not relatable to the majority of viewers. Immigration as a topic has been covered innumerable times in both fiction and true-life accounts. How does this narrative differ in what it is saying from all those other productions? I’m not certain, rather but Castro’s ability to capture the reality of Muñoz and her family’s predicament kept me interested.

Castro utilizes her camera impressively, and that skill is what kept me interested throughout. However, the actual narrative concerning Muñoz and Haupt wasn’t of much interest, making it difficult to care about much of the messaging. As a result, it’s a struggle to determine the merit of Mija. I’ve come to believe that it lies solely in the hands of the talented filmmaker and not the subjects, making the movie both disappointing and interestingly appealing at the same time.

Mija screened at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

Mija (2022)

Directed: Isabel Castro

Written:

Starring: Doris Muñoz, Jacks Haupt, Jose Muñoz, Ruth Muñoz, Carlos Muñoz Sr., Carlos Muñoz, etc.

Movie score: 6.5/10

Mija Image

"…Castro's ability to capture the reality of Muñoz and her family's predicament kept me interested."

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