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The Harvest (Spanish title: La Cosecha) is a documentary film about agricultural child labor in America, by filmmaker Robin Romano in association with Shine Global, with planned release in 2010.

It depicts children who work as many as 12 hours a day, six months a year, in the burning hot sun, without the protection of child labor laws. These children are not toiling in the fields in some far away land. They are working here, in our back yard, in America.

Not since the work of Walker Evans, has the world of these agricultural workers been so vividly and intimately depicted. More than 400,000 migrant child workers in the US, journey from their homes, traveling from state to state, farm to farm, crop to crop, picking ¼ of all the produce we eat. Most of these children are American citizens. All are working to help their families survive while sacrificing the birthright of childhood: play; stability; school. The film profiles several of them as they work through the 2009 harvest.

Whose families will be “lucky” enough to get work? Which families will be separated? Which will be deported or injured or killed? Will any manage to keep their dreams alive?

  • Zulema Lopez, a tiny 12 year-old, describes carrying 45 pounds of strawberries while moving along plant rows on her knees. Having attended 8 schools in the last 8 years, she continually fails academically and is afraid she won’t make it into high school. When asked what her dreams are she shakes her head and says she has none.
  • Perla Sanchez, 14, tries to remain hopeful after seeing her brother die of a gang-related shooting in the waiting room of a hospital because he lacked health insurance. “I would at least have liked to see him die in a hospital room,” she says sadly. The only benefit for Perla of continuing to migrate on the harvest with her family, is that it will insulate her from the other perils inherent in being a teenage Latina with limited resources. If she stays in Texas, she is unsure if she will be able to resist the lure of gang life.
  • Although 16 year-old Jessica Rios and her sister were born in this country, her family is still on the path to citizenship. The uncertainty of her family’s situation and the turmoil of migrating wear on her. Her dream is to become a registered nurse but she tells us: “I’m left behind other people in school, because they’re all learning new things while I’m picking crops”. This year, to fulfill Jessica’s dream of being the first of her siblings to graduate from high school, they decided not to migrate. Will the family manage to find work at home in Texas so she can stay in school? This decision may have disastrous consequences but only a huge risk will help. Jessica realizes a dream the whole family cherishes.
  • Gilberto Martinez is a handsome 15 year-old living in Florida. Given the climate, there is fieldwork in neighboring areas all year long. While he is saved from the ordeal of migration, the constant availability of crops to harvest locally, means that he works day in and day out, every day of the year. To help in the support of his brothers and sisters, Gilberto has had to make harvesting, not school, his current, and likely future, focus.

The film tracks these children for a full year as they follow the crops they harvest, their lives governed by climate, demand, trade, and the greater economy.

The vérité footage of the children and their year of toil, will be augmented by the children having the chance to speak for themselves about their lives, all filmed by the award-winning director and cinematographer U Roberto 'Robin' Romano.

Principal photography for THE HARVEST/ LA COSECHA began in Minnesota and North Dakota in June 2007, and continues in Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Ohio through the 2009 harvest. Post-production will begin in early winter 2010, with the anticipated completion of the film by mid-2010. Shot with cinematic scope, revealing the drama and impact of narrative character-based storytelling and powered by the children’s determination to find hope within their hardship, THE HARVEST boasts unparalleled access to life on these farms across the nation and gives the opportunity to connect with these children, who live these unthinkable lives to feed us, and more importantly to them, to feed their families and themselves.

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