Los Graduados A Film About Latino Students

An interview with a Latino filmmaker about the bright future of Latino students


Occasionally, there comes a time when a film can change a narrative and transform perspectives, opinions and actions. One of those films is The Graduates/Los Graduados.  Premiering on October 28 and November 4, 2013, on the PBS series INDEPENDENT LENS, the film invites discussion and inspires the mobilization of resources for a higher cause.

In The Graduates/Los Graduados, filmmaker Director Bernardo Ruiz follows six Latino high-school  youths as they navigate the U.S. educational system.  Narrating their own stories, they discuss the obstacles they face and how both they and the community can come together to create a new generation of Latino leaders.

Los Graduados- Latino students

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) created a series entitled American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, which is a long-term public media effort intended to engage communities in the search for and implementation of solutions to high-school dropout trends. As part of this effort, Independent Television Service [ITVS> launched the Vamos a Lograrlo! campaign, focusing on the Latino community.   [ITVS> (creators of Independent Lens) and Quiet Films joined forces to produce an artful documentary that celebrates Latino life and honors Latino Heritage Month. The Graduates/Los Graduados is a result of this multi-pronged undertaking.

This two-part bilingual documentary addresses educational issues in the U.S. through the Latino lens. Honing in on the profound and adverse experiences of six young Latino and Latina high-school studentsThe Graduates/Los Graduados masterfully depicts a trajectory that starts with despair and culminates in achievement. In this serene, soft-toned and pensive film, Director Bernardo Ruiz allows the protagonists to narrate their own—sometimes chilling, sometimes tender—stories.

Latino Students A Manifestation of Determination



Bernardo Ruiz, Los Graduados Latino students Bernardo Ruiz, filmmaker, Director, Los Graduados


A kaleidoscope of circumstances conspires against these young Latinos. The stories, which appear woeful at first encounter, are nothing short of epic. In The Graduates/Los Graduados, gangs, undocumented immigration status, homosexuality, teenage pregnancy and homelessness threaten high-school graduation. Yet, graduation is an explicit manifestation of determination. Aided by a strong and implacable network of supporters, these Latino students adeptly confront and dismantle adversity.

What inspired Director Ruiz to create The Graduates/Los Graduados? Last month I spoke with him. I learned about Ruiz’s motivations and aspirations as we talked about the film’s purpose. Here are some highlights from our conversation.




Mara Perez
Mara Perez
Mara Perez, Ph.D. As Founder and Principal of Mara Perez, Fund Development and Planning Services, Mara provides fundraising and strategic planning services to non-profits. Mara has helped over seventy organizations obtain funding, design innovative work strategies, and execute growth plans. Mara holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago. Community service includes: 2010-present Board Member of Marin General Hospital; 2002-2012 Board Member Canal Alliance, twice Board President; 2005 Spirit of Marin Award, Business Person of the Year; Coro Leadership Community Fellow. She has published articles about immigration, social change, and fundraising. Born in Argentina, Mara resides in California.

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