The Garden Left Behind traces the relationship between Tina, a young transwoman, and Eliana, her grandmother, as they navigate Tina's transition and struggle to build a life for themselves as undocumented immigrants in New York City. As Tina begins the process of transitioning, Eliana struggles to understand and fears that their life together in America is no longer what they bargained for. Tina finds camaraderie in a small but mighty transgender advocate group, but soon, Tina finds herself having to fight for the life that she’s meant to live – facing violent threats, seemingly insurmountable medical costs, questions about her legal immigration status, and increasing skepticism from the man she loves.
THE NEED FOR THE PROJECT
While the visibility of transgender people is increasing in popular culture and daily life, this population still faces severe discrimination, stigma, and systemic inequality. Specific issues facing the transgender community range from legal discrimination to poverty to anti-transgender violence to lack of access to healthcare, housing, employment, and other basic necessities. Transgender people are disproportionately subject to extreme poverty and violence. These obstacles are exacerbated even further for foreign-born and/or undocumented immigrants, which is why we are addressing this unique set of challenges.
Although a number of recent independent films have featured transgender characters (and, more occasionally, transgender actors in those roles), none have told a story from the perspective of an undocumented immigrant, as The Garden Left Behind will. The film also tells this story through the lens of a uniquely complicated relationship between a grandmother and her grandchild who has been raised in a foreign country. As an immigrant and gay man myself, I understand the importance of visibility and organizing a community for support. I hope that my films will help to empower voices from within these communities.
In addition to educating our audience about challenges faced by the transgender community in general and transgender immigrants in particular, we will cast transgender actors, rather than cisgender actors performing in drag, as so many films about this oft-misrepresented community do. Similarly, we plan to cast Latino performers in Latino roles, and bilingual performers/native Spanish language-speakers in Spanish-speaking roles, in order to more authentically capture experiences from these specific walks of life. More importantly, this project will thus employ actors from underrepresented demographics in most key roles.
DIRECTOR: Flavio Alves
WRITERS: John Rotondo & Flavio Alves
PRODUCER: Roy Wol
CO-PRODUCER: Frances Lozada, John Flynn
ASSOCIATE PRODUCERS: Kristen Lovell, Andrew Daniels
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Adam Beasley, and Max Berger
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Koshi Kiyokawa
PRODUCTION DESIGNER: Kimberly Matela
COSTUME DESIGNER: Steve Iskowitz
EDITOR: Alex Lora
COMPOSER: Robert Pycior
CASTING DIRECTORS: Caroline Sinclair
New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA)
Jerome Foundation Grant
Roy W. Dean Film Grant
New York Foundation for the Arts
Material for the Arts
Lagunitas Brewing Company