Last night, the Academy gave a meaningful nod to Demián Bichir for his role as an undocumented immigrant in Chris Weitz’s movie, “A Better Life.”
As Natalie Portman took to the stage to introduce the nominees for Best Actor, she acknowledged Bichir’s work in the movie, which we transcribed:
“You created so much empathy for another human being that we all left the theater looking at the world differently. As Carlos Galindo, an undocumented immigrant fighting to give his son the opportunities he never had, you made us face very true portrait of a human being no one had ever dared us to consider before.”
Bichir is no stranger to our issue. In an Associated Press interview, Katherine Corcoran writes how Demian Bichir learned “an important lesson” when he left Mexico for the United States, living life as an undocumented immigrant in New York. According to the story, he learned “how to live the invisible life of an illegal immigrant with dignity.”
And so when the Academy first announced his nomination, Bichir did not forget his humble beginnings.
“I dedicate this nomination to those 11 million human beings who make our lives easier and better in the U.S.,” he said, shortly after learning of his nomination to US Weekly.
Most recently, he lent his voice to Chris Weitz’s recent project, “Is This Alabama,” a collection of four short videos of life in Alabama under HB 56. Each video takes on a different theme, and asks the question: Is This Alabama?
One of the videos features a Latina sitting with her daughter, afraid to show her face to the camera.
“We’re just asking God to keep our family together,” the woman says, through tears, after Demien narrates a passage from the Bible, in Spanish:
In the Bible, the Lord says: Verily I say unto you inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
On Demián’s nomination, Chris Weitz writes this poignant CNN Opinion piece, just days before the Oscars. Here’s an excerpt:
The battle over immigration reform is fought with numbers, but the ground of the battle is an emotional landscape. Over the past few months we’ve seen the Republican candidates use undocumented immigrants as a rhetorical punching bag, secure in the knowledge that they can’t fight back.
Why? Because an undocumented immigrant is afraid to draw attention to himself. Although they are, on the whole, tremendously industrious, family-oriented, God-fearing and deeply invested in this country through familial ties, they are living on a razor’s edge. The edge is, if anything, made sharper by draconian and politically self-serving laws like Alabama’s HB56 and its cousins in Arizona and Georgia.
Alabama’s HB56 made it illegal not only to work without documentation, but to give a ride to someone without documentation. Or, as one farmer put it, “The state of Alabama is telling me who my friends can be.”
Leaving aside the fact that the law has been disastrous for the state’s economy and reputation — fruits are rotting unpicked in the fields and the bad old days of segregation have been evoked — it’s just plain indecent. This, more than any facts or figures, will be where the law runs aground, when people understand the story of the undocumented immigrant in the United States.
The Pilgrims did not have papers. They arrived and made their way. And my grandparents came from Mexico, Germany and Czechoslovakia to make a better life for my family.
And when the camera turns to Demián, nominated for an Oscar up there with Brad Pitt and George Clooney, hundreds of millions of people worldwide will see a foreign-born worker making his way, through all the barriers of language and racial preference, in this amazing country.