Trailer Watch: Iliana Sosa Pays Tribute to Her Grandfather in “What We Leave Behind”
“Grandpa was a mystery to me as a kid. I didn’t know how to talk to him,” Iliana Sosa narrates in the latest trailer for her acclaimed doc “What We Leave Behind.” The SXSW title sees the filmmaker demystifying the...
Trailer Watch: Iliana Sosa Pays Tribute to Her Grandfather in “What We Leave Behind”"What We Leave Behind"
“Grandpa was a mystery to me as a kid. I didn’t know how to talk to him,” Iliana Sosa narrates in the latest trailer for her acclaimed doc “What We Leave Behind.” The SXSW title sees the filmmaker demystifying the storied life of her grandfather Julián Moreno, gradually constructing her own family tapestry along the way. “What We Leave Behind” explores this very idea of genealogical legacy: what is it that we leave behind for posterity? And what do we, as successors, inherit from our elders?
At the age of 89, Moreno undertakes a Herculean task: building a new home in rural Durango, Mexico, for family members on both sides of the Mexico-U.S. border. In her feature debut, Sosa documents the construction process and daily routine of her grandfather. In an interview with us, she explained that she was also “drawing out memories from family members” and grappling “with how migration and loss have marked all of our lives.”
“The film is ultimately a kind of love letter to Julián and his homeland,” Sosa mused. “I reflect on my grandfather’s superstitions, my mother’s journey across the border, and my grandmother’s untimely death when my mom was just a teenager. As I interweave these different threads, I’m able to build relationships and mutual understanding with my relatives, unearth buried memories, and ultimately piece together a fragmented family history.”
Moreno was a bracero, one of millions of agricultural workers brought to the U.S. from Mexico to accommodate the labor shortage of World War II. These seasonal workers were exploited for their manual labor and then repatriated once their work permits expired. While Sosa set out to explore her grandfather’s nomadic, precarious life as a bracero, “the project’s focus and approach shifted to something more personal,” she revealed.
“The dynamics around this house allowed me to explore how migration has affected our family’s bonds and shaped my identity,” Sosa shared. “It also prompted me to reflect on my emotional and cultural experiences as part of a diaspora. Through the process of filmmaking, I was able to build a new relationship with my grandfather and his homeland.” She emphasized, “The film honors my family on both sides of the border and tells their story — the story of people we rarely see onscreen.”
In addition to his personal anecdotes and vignettes of family history, the doc captures Moreno’s unbreakable spirit even as his health declines. “I know that that day has to come sooner or later. Why get scared?” he says in the trailer.
“What We Leave Behind” follows “An Uncertain Future,” Sosa’s 2018 documentary short centering around two expectant mothers contending with increased ICE raids and the xenophobia fomented by the Trump administration. Co-directed with Chelsea Hernandez, the project won a Jury Award for Best Texas Short at SXSW. “What We Leave Behind” snagged two Special Jury awards at its SXSW premiere earlier this year.
“What We Leave Behind” hits theaters and Netflix September 30.