It was in Arriaga, a small town where Central American migrants funnel into Mexico, that Potomac filmmaker Ginger Wolf most dramatically saw the extreme toll of poverty.
Migrants hoping to make it to the U.S. literally hop on top of a large freight train that goes through the town and heads north, sometimes hundreds at a time. For many from villages with no electricity or water service and living on $1 or $2 a day, the dangerous trip is the only way to support their families.
“No one ever knows when a train is coming. It just sort of appears,” Wolf said. “You saw these 16- and 17-year-old girls who were leaving their children with their mothers, knowing they might not see them again. It was so dangerous and so brutal what many were willing to do to come to this country.”
Wolf spent time in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and the U.S. chronicling the plight of Central American migrants making the dangerous trek north for jobs here. After five years of filming, editing and fundraising, her documentary, “A Bridge Apart,” will premier Tuesday at the Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club.
The event is set for 6:30 p.m. at the theater and will include a reception, screening and expert discussion.
Wolf’s interest in the issue began with a 2007 trip to Latin America with an organization doing volunteer development work.
“By the second week of the tour, it was apparent to me that there was something here that was a story,” Wolf said. “There was so much more of a human story than the one we see in the media. I don’t think people are aware of some of the things happening, the element of human trafficking going on in this area that is related.”
Wolf took a crew to Central America to chronicle the story, including the train, known as “The Beast.” Wolf reached out to actor Edward James Olmos, who agreed to narrate the film.
The documentary also looks at some simple development projects — such as installing a water main to a small village — that could provide for a better economy and stem the flow of migrants making the dangerous journey north.
“It wasn’t always that it had to be a multi-million dollar government program, but just something very simple that an organization or company could support,” Wolf said.
Immigration reform advocates, social services workers and those working to stop human trafficking will attend the premiere in an effort to shed light on the issue.
Wolf went to Kickstarter.com for help funding the project and got almost $49,000. Her funding goal was $47,500.
“Most of the things that I do are for people who come to me with specific film projects. About three or four times in my career, I have taken on these projects where I do the organizing and the fundraising,” Wolf said. “But we wanted to show the suffering and the needs people have for survival. I was astounded by the poverty and I felt it was important to show.”