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Film Catalog » Subject Areas » American Studies » Rancho California (Por Favor)

Rancho California (Por Favor)

Rancho California (Por Favor) - Image Produced by John Caldwell.
59 min. Color. 2003.
Available as: VHS and DVD
Captioned: No
Catalog #: 0109
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Sale Price: $250.00 Buy VHS Buy DVD

This thought-provoking, widely acclaimed visual essay provides a troubling journey through migrant farmworker camps in suburban southern California -- Rancho de los Diablos, Kelly Camp, Porterville, McGonigle Canyon -- where homeless indigenous Mixteco workers coexist near gated designer-home enclaves in Carlsbad, La Costa, Encinitas, and Del Mar.

In a remarkable feat of artistic and political fusion, the film explores the charged debate over the meaning and consequences of immigrant culture near America's southern border, and along the way examines the complex realities of race and class in this country.

"Rancho California" begins by working through a set of media ideals about social participation and self-representation, but finally finds layers of complicity at the center of the region's economy. Blending keen observation and insightful commentary, the film illustrates how racial identity and social roles are carefully cultivated parts of the landscape in a new "suburban plantation culture." But the picture presented is not all bleak: the film also shows how grassroots development efforts by indigenous Mixteco organizers work to resist conditions of deprivation concealed in the heart of this otherwise scenic landscape.

"Rancho California" will engage and challenge students and it will generate analysis and discussion in a wide array of courses in Latino and ethnic studies, sociology, cultural anthropology, and American studies. It was produced by Prof. John Caldwell, who teaches media and cultural studies in the Dept. of Film and Television, UCLA.


"Brilliantly explores the new social relations emerging in southern California in the wake of mass migration, economic restructuring, and the rapid growth of low-wage labor jobs in the service sector in affluent urban areas. The film envisions and enacts a cross-cultural conversation on vital public issues, a conversation that seems to be taking place nowhere else in our society. The film 'breaks the frame' of electronic and print media discourses about immigration, compelling us to confront issues of overwhelming public policy importance in fundamentally new ways." -- George Lipsitz, Prof. of American Studies, Univ. of California, Santa Cruz

"Provides a much-needed teaching tool for courses that explore the socioeconomic and cultural issues underpinning Mexican and indigenous migration. The film's ethnographic approach raises important methodological and ethical questions about how we come to know about migrant populations. This is an essential resource for American and ethnic studies, Chicano/Latino studies, and transnational studies. -- Chon Noriega, Director and Prof., Chicano Studies Research Center, UCLA

"This is a superb film for use in ethnography, anthropology, and cultural and intercultural studies, indeed in any discipline that deals seriously and critically with questions of politics, civilisation, exploitation, and human ways of being in this world. It prompts deep thought and deep learning in students. It encourages genuine, open exchange and debate, it takes us to the heart of the big questions that enable us to work with our students and ourselves as educators for transformation. It is a truly invaluable resource which opens up exciting possibilities for teaching. Use it with your students and see!" -- Dr Alison Phipps, Director, Graduate School for Arts and Humanities, and Senior Lecturer in Anthropology and Intercultural Studies, Univ. of Glasgow, UK

"Not since Paul Taylor and Dorothea Lange's American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion has a documentary explored as dramatically the social conditions underlying California's 'imported' agricultural labor. Deeply insightful and frequently poignant in its use of visual irony, the film provides a contemporary analysis of those few conditions that have changed, and the many more that have not, in the lives of California's migrant farm workers. Filmmaker John Caldwell himself takes viewers through the camps and into the shacks and their inhabitants, his role much like that of The Great Gatsby's Nick Carraway, an ambivalent moral register and witness to the culture, unable to pinpoint the blame or to absolve any, including himself, from it." -- Jan Goggans, Pacific Regional Humanities Center, Univ. of California, Davis

"An uncompromising inquiry into the lives of the invisible workers in America's affluent suburban neighborhoods and their plantation culture. As a reflexive documentary of the borderlands, the film dispels romantic postmodern notions of resistance and identity-performance. With impressive coverage and significant insight, the film shows what it truly means for young and dislocated Guatemalan and Oaxacan men, women, and children to live in the hillside shelters while they service the homes some fences apart. Rich metaphors of perseverance, creativity, and domesticity are set next to factual severity of pesticides, denied wages, sexual loneliness, and racism that beset the transnational workers who are stuck with migrancy. This provocative film is rigorous, restrained, powerful, and compassionate all at once." -- Esther C.M. Yau, Prof. and Chair, Asian Studies Dept., Occidental College

"Focusing on several migrant Mexican farm worker encampments in southern California, the film observes the social gestures through which the workers, and their nearby neighbors in gated communities, negotiate and enunciate their social roles and relations. Taking its premise one step further, the film focuses on the tortured value system underlying this country's dualistic approach to its own problems of labor and immigration. The resulting picture is unsettling, revealing a cooperative cultivation of racial identity by landowners and an inexpensive and renewable workforce which comes and goes as if planted and harvested." -- Sundance Film Festival Program Guide

"A great film that stands as a sobering, soaring tale of human greed and misery, and the souls that rise above it all." -- Dean Treadway, Program Dir., Dahlonega Intl. Film Festival


  • Sundance Film Festival World Premiere Selection
  • Special Jury Prize, Gold Premio Mesquite Award, CineFestival San Antonio
  • Intl. Communication Assn. Keynote Screening
  • Columbus Intl. Film Festival Award
  • Big Muddy Film Festival Award
  • American Studies Assn. honoree
  • Society for Cinema and Media Studies honoree
  • University Film and Video Assn. honoree
  • Cineteca Nacional, Mexico City, honoree
  • Los Angeles Intl. Latino Film Festival honoree



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