My heart was full and then breaking simultaneously throughout. I laughed, cried, and learned—a very special and insightful documentary.
This review of the Disney+ documentary film Mija does not contain spoilers.
Mija chronicles the emotional and complex stories of Doris Muñoz and Jacks Haupt, the daughters of undocumented immigrants from Mexico, navigating their careers in the music industry. Mija is the debut feature of Mexican American filmmaker Isabel Castro and premiered to rave reviews at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Like a lot of success stories, there is this black cloud of pressure in the background, which is the driving force, and these are the stories that audiences remember and appreciate. We love to watch the little person making it big, we love to see success from those who have to strive and work for it. Passion and talent only go so far sometimes, and here they are doing this not just for themselves, but for their families.
The reality is Doris’s parents risked everything, left everything to come to the US to give their children a better life, and then the children spend their life honoring that sacrifice — a huge emotional burden to give yourself and carry. What makes this documentary film so powerful and tragic is that whilst the main focus is Doris, both musicians/artists share the ever-present guilt of being the first American-born members of their undocumented families, and they battle discovering who they are and who they want to be with multiple identities merging together. This documentary shares their stories, their struggles, the good times and the bad, on their journey to being successful in the music industry.
I loved that Doris’ love for music came from wanting to connect with her Mexican culture, as music is something that brings people together. Whilst this documentary has aspects of hope and triumph there are hard-hitting realities, such as growing up with the constant fear that your family is going to be deported, being hyper-aware that you are the only one to have papers, and then her brother actually being deported and the family living with “survivor’s guilt”. Topics a lot of us can’t even imagine.
The filming style is a mixture of fly-on-the-wall and home video-style shooting. It’s extremely well edited, and the narration/voiceover from Doris is somber and helps guide us along her journey. We’re given personal, vulnerable interviews, special family moments, old home videos, and get to see them making music behind the scenes.
This documentary gives a real, genuine insight into the world and life of what it is like to be an immigrant in the United States, and what it is like to be a legal member of your immigrant family. The fears, the turmoil, but also the passion, the love, and the want to stay in the US. There is also the theme of the arts — how the arts can be a dream, but also be a viable career and how people/parents should take that seriously. The ending had me in tears, but tears of joy and sadness. Such an emotionally driven story, probably without realizing. With a runtime of an hour and twenty-five minutes, this documentary film is one you should add to your list.
What did you think of Mija? Comment below.