Saint Martin’s student to premiere groundbreaking
documentary on migrant farm workers
March 28, 2011
LACEY, WASHINGTON — Jacob Suazo, a student at Saint Martin’s
University, will premiere Blood, Sweat and Berries, a
full-length documentary he co-produced on the plight of migrant
farm workers. The premiere will take place Tuesday, March 29, at
7 p.m. in Room 110 of Harned Hall on Saint Martin’s Lacey
campus, 5300 Pacific Avenue SE, Lacey, Washington. The film
viewing is free and open to the public.
The documentary is the culmination of a nearly three-year effort
by Suazo to interview and document both farm workers and farm
owners in the American West. Suazo worked on the project with
University of Portland student Scott Hines, University of
Washington student Teresa Javillonar and Tacoma resident Rex
Yabut. Suazo is the film’s director.
“The idea came to us from our passion for social justice,
especially for immigrant workers in our nation,” says Suazo.
“The four of us are frequent mission workers for the Youth
Migrant Project in the Skagit Valley. This project aids migrant
workers who are from that area.” The Youth Migrant Project, a
program of the Archdiocese of Seattle, runs from June through
August every year. Volunteers work in daycare centers, visit
migrant camps, work in the fields and learn about the lives of
the migrant workers.
Suazo says the group initially set out to explore the root of
injustices they witnessed against farm workers, but soon
realized how little they knew about the agriculture industry.
Before filming began, the producers spent nearly a year
developing contacts and scouting locations in three states —
Washington, Oregon and California. Suazo spent much of his
freshman year at Saint Martin’s laying the groundwork for this
ambitious project. Filming began in the summer of 2009. “We
interviewed consumers, farmers, migrant workers, law officials,
community leaders, priests and business owners,” explains Suazo.
The filming took about a month to complete. The filmmakers
started in Northern California, where they departed every
morning at 4 a.m. to pick in the tomato fields and interview
workers. After California, they drove to Oregon and interviewed
individuals at a farmers market in Pioneer Square in downtown
Portland. Next, they traveled to Hoffman Farms in Scholls,
Oregon, to get a farmer’s point of view. From Oregon, the
filmmakers headed north to the Skagit Valley in Washington. They
spent two weeks filming the Youth Migrant Project, the migrant
camps and a small farm where volunteers helped workers harvest
vegetables. They interviewed the farmer to get his perspective
of the industry.
The filmmakers began editing short previews of the film that
winter and showed it to various groups for feedback. Previews
were shown in Saint Martin’s classes taught by Brian Barnes,
Ph.D., assistant professor of history, and Jeff Birkenstein,
Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the English department.
A segment of the film was also shown during the University’s
Scholars Day last year. The previews allowed for feedback from
Saint Martin’s students, which, says Suazo, was critical in the
final editing process.
Suazo and Hines, both pre-med students, began the full edit on
the film in the summer of 2010. Fitting the edit sessions around
work and school proved to be a challenge. “We edited on weekends
and holidays,” reflects Suazo. “We often worked from sunrise to
sunset on those days.”
The film sparked the development of a non-profit organization,
also called Blood, Sweat and Berries. Its purpose is to promote
social justice through art. The non-profit offers a scholarship
for a high school senior. Saint Martin’s student Ashleigh Nelson
is a spokesperson for the film and involved in the non-profit.
“The film helped the non-profit grow dramatically in just under
two years,” Nelson says. “It has allowed me to share my love for
mission work with the entire community at Saint Martin’s.”
Ultimately, Suazo says, the group set out to produce a
non-biased documentary that shares the viewpoints of both
migrant workers and farmers and the impact consumers have on the
industry. “I want viewers of our documentary to learn that the
choices they make have an effect on the quality of life for
others,” he says.
To watch a short preview of the film, or to learn more about the
www.bloodsweatandberries.org. For more details about the
March 29 showing, contact Ashleigh Nelson at
Blood, Sweat and Berries
Tuesday, March 29
Saint Martin’s University, Harned Hall, Room 110
Saint Martin’s University is an independent four-year, Catholic,
coeducational university located on a 380-acre wooded campus in
Lacey, Washington. Established in 1895 by the Catholic Order of
Saint Benedict, the University is one of 18 Benedictine colleges
and universities in the United States and Canada, and the only
one west of the Rocky Mountains. Saint Martin’s University
prepares students for successful lives through its 21 majors and
six graduate programs spanning the liberal arts, business,
education and engineering. Saint Martin’s welcomes 1,250
students from many ethnic and religious backgrounds to its main
campus, and 650 more to its extension campuses located at Joint
Base Lewis-McChord, Everett College, Centralia College, and
Tacoma Community College.
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