CNN to air Jose Antonio Vargas' undocumented immigrant journey

Gabriel Miramar-Garcia | 20-11-2013

In advance of the 2013 International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam (IDFA), CNN Films has acquired the US broadcast rights to Documented, a feature-length film that explores the life and journey out of the shadows led by undocumented immigrant and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas.

Documented will premiere on CNN in the US in the second quarter of 2014 as a CNN Films broadcast, following its international bow at the IDFA and its theatrical distribution in the United States.

Documented is written and directed by Vargas, with technology entrepreneur Sean Parker, Matthew Hiltzik (Paper Clips), Scott Budnick (The Hangover series), and philanthropist Liz Simons as executive producers.

"Immigration, to me, is not a political issue, it's not a Latino or Asian issue it's an American story," said Vargas. "The film is in honour of 11 million undocumented immigrants many of us Americans in all but papers. And, the film is dedicated to parents everywhere who dream of better futures for their children. It is a privilege to be associated with CNN Films in bringing Documented to television."

Vargas began working on the documentary shortly before "outing" himself as undocumented in a ground-breaking New York Times Magazine essay, 'My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant'. Vargas then travelled around the country, telling his story in solidarity with the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country. As he connected with his subjects through the similarities of their journeys, particularly those who, like Vargas, came to the United States as children, his personal reflections compelled him to reconnect with his mother, whom he had not seen in 20 years.

In 2008, Vargas was awarded a Pulitzer as part of the team of Washington Post journalists who reported on the 2007 shooting massacre at Virginia Tech University. His own immigrant journey began at age 12 when he was sent to the United States from the Philippines by his mother to live with his grandparents in Mountain View, Calif. After attending San Francisco State University, he pursued a print journalism career landing jobs at newspapers in San Francisco, Philadelphia, New York City and Washington DC for the Post all the while, managing to keep his true citizenship status a secret.

"We have followed Jose's story closely since 2011 and are very pleased we will be able to offer US viewers a window into the experiences of recent immigrants through his story," said Amy Entelis, senior vice president for talent and content development for CNN Worldwide. "Jose also reports this story from a journalist's point of view which makes it a great fit for distribution on our network."