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A new documentary explores the heartbreaking realities that some mothers must face when they have to provide for their children from afar. "Nana" follows three women — Leidy, Fina and Clara — who leave their own children in the care of their family members while they go to the United States to care for the children of others as nannies.
The 70-minute film, which began as part of a master's thesis at the University of Missouri and was filmed three years ago on a very low budget, is directed by first-time filmmaker and Dominican photojournalist Tatiana Fernández Geara.
The stories told in "Nana" explore the conflicts between the live-in nannies from the Dominican Republic and their employers, the ties that develop between children and the nannies who care for them, and how their families back home deal with the separation and raising the children the moms had to leave behind in order to support their family financially.
"With her, I enjoyed her entire childhood," says a nanny named Clara in the documentary's trailer, referring to one of the children she cares for. "But not with my [own] children." She talks about loving the children she takes care of as if they were her own, but the sadness in her voice is poignant and palpable when she talks about missing out on her own kids' lives.
The documentary also interviews some of the children of the nannies. As one daughter shares, "when my mom told me she had to move far away for work, I felt really bad because I thought, 'Well, my mom won't be with me.' I haven't seen her in nine years."
"I have to work to support [my kids] or have everyone starve to death back home. It's one or the other."
And the adult family members left behind to raise those children in the Dominican Republic are part of the documentary as well. One grandmother featured in the film shares that she has raised all her grandchildren except for a few living in San Francisco — and that she's raised up to 12 grandchildren at once, all living in the same shack in the Dominican Republic.
When Fina is asked by the director why she came to Miami, leaving her family behind, the nanny answers in Spanish, "I have to work to support [my kids] or have everyone starve to death back home. It's one or the other."
Another nanny, Leidy, shares in the documentary that it's difficult because "sometimes you're eating and you don't know if your kids have eaten."
"Nana," which is sure to be an eye-opening look at the lives of women who must leave their own children in order to keep a roof over their heads and food in their bellies, premiered at the Festival del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano in Havana Dec. 10. We hope to see this film released in the U.S. soon!