U Roberto Romano

The Harvest/La Cosecha

THE HARVEST is the story of the children who work as many as 12 hours a day six months a year in the burning hot sun, without the protection of child labor laws. These children are not toiling in the fields in some far away land. They are working here, in our back yard, in America.

Every year hundreds of thousands of migrant child farmworkers in the US journey from their homes through 48 states. From the scorching sun of the Texas onion fields to the winter snows of the Michigan apple orchards, from the heat of the Florida tomato fields to the damp cherry trees in Oregon. These children are American citizens. All are working to help their families survive while sacrificing the birthright of childhood: play; stability; school.

The film profiles 3 of them as they work through the 2009-10 harvests. Whose families will be “lucky” enough to get work? Which families will be separated? Will there be enough work to sustain them? Will any manage to keep their dreams alive?

• Zulema Lopez, a young 12 year-old, can only remember working in the fields. One of her earliest childhood memories is of her mother teaching her how to pick and clean strawberries. Having attended 8 schools in the last 8 years she continually fails academically and is afraid she won’t make it into high school. When asked what her dreams are she shakes her head and says she has none. Her mother considers an extreme sacrifice to save Zulema from the cycle of poverty that has plagued three generations of migrants.

• Perla Sanchez, 14, tries to remain hopeful after seeing her brother die in a hospital waiting room because he lacked insurance. “I would at least have liked to see him die in a hospital room,” she says sadly. She dreams of becoming a lawyer to help people just like herself and her family. Her worst fear is that something will happen to her parents. The devastating reality of migrant life and a tumultuous summer will leave Perla simply longing for home.

• Victor Huapilla is a hard-working 15 year-old living in Florida. Given the climate, there is fieldwork all year long and the constant availability of crops to harvest locally means that he works day in and day out, every day of the year. To help support his parents and 4 sisters; Victor has had to make harvesting, not school, his current, and likely future, focus. He tells us “I won’t leave the fields unless my parents come with me.”

The verité footage of the children and their year of toil will be augmented by the children having the chance to speak for themselves about their lives.

Shot in 8 states, the film reveals the drama of these children’s determination to find hope within their hardship. THE HARVEST/LA COSECHA boasts unparalleled access to life on farms and in the camps across this country and gives us the opportunity to connect with these children who sacrifice their childhood to feed us, and more importantly to them, to feed their families and themselves.

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