In the midst of immigration reform, “Spare Parts” humanizes undocumented immigrants reminding us of the individuals dominating this national conversation. “Spare Parts”, out January 16 in select theaters, is a true-life story about four Hispanic high school students who form a robotics club under the leadership of their school’s newest teacher, Fredi (George Lopez). With no experience, 800 bucks, used car parts and a dream, this ragtag team goes up against the country’s reigning robotics champion, MIT. On their journey, they build robot as well as a bond that will last a lifetime. This is a story about an American favorite: the underdog, and yet it’s so much more than that.
Set in Arizona, one of the top states in criminalizing undocumented immigrants, the film breaks Latino stereotypes. It tells the story of four students in a Phoenix High School, in which roughly 80 percent of the student population lives below the poverty line. Yet this is not a movie about gang warfare, violence or crime. In contrast to other films about schools and underserved communities rescued by a white hero, a la the 1995 drama ‘Dangerous Minds’, this is a story about kids taking charge of their future and fighting for their dreams, while fighting a society that rather they not exist. They are the disenfranchised youth of a Latino community that isn’t just discriminated against or underserved, it is criminalized just for existing.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, in 2004 the United States expelled 1,238,319 undocumented immigrants 603,918 of which came out of the Phoenix field office. To put this in perspective, this is more than three times the number of people expelled the second leading deportations, San Antonio, Texas.
In 2010 Arizona stepped up it’s anti immigrant game by passing a law called the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, referred to as the Arizona SB 1070. According to the New York Times was the broadest and strictest anti-immigration measure of its time. This compelling story, once depicted in a Wired Magazine’s article written by Joshua Davis ten years ago, is being brought back to the forefront by this film. “Spare Parts” demonstrates that sadly not much has changed in ten years for undocumented immigrants. These types of persecutions still exist. Films like this one are not just crucial to the national immigration debate, especially now that the Dream Act and executive action has been presented by President Barack Obama. They are also necessary in Hollywood; the entertainment industry must tell stories of the struggles of all human kind, not just a select few.
Whether you sympathize specifically with plight of the undocumented immigrants or not, in the end, ultimately “Spare Parts” is a story of overcoming incredible odds. And that is something we can all relate to.