Los Banos teacher's documentary highlights struggle of farmworkers

08/27/2012 12:52 AM

08/27/2012 9:10 AM

"The Fight for Water," a film about the 2009 march Westside farmworkers staged to draw attention to their struggle, will make its local debut in a few days.

Los Banos substitute teacher Juan Carlos Oseguera edited, produced, wrote and directed the feature-length documentary, which will premiere Sunday at the Film Fest Twain Harte in Pinecrest.

"I got interested in the water situation," said the 38-year-old Newman resident. "People were telling me their situation, so I wanted to expand from that.

"I wanted to learn how this was affecting them."

About 200,000 people were affected, beginning in 2008, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put in place policies to restrict the water pumped into Central Valley farmland. The policies protected the endangered delta smelt, but made work scarce for migrant farmworkers.

The 77-minute film is also set for a showing at the ITSA Film Festival in Sonora in November.

A graduate of Orestimba High School, Oseguera will also show the film Sept. 21 at West Side Theater in Newman.

The four-day march that started April 14, 2009, took farmworkers, farmers and other supporters 50 miles from Mendota to the San Luis Reservoir. Oseguera spoke with Westside farmers and visited families in food lines set up by the Fresno County Food Bank in the year that followed the march.

Oseguera said he started the film thinking families were hurting because there wasn't enough rainfall, but quickly learned the documentary would be a study on water rights and environmental regulations.

"It was an eye-opener," he said.

The son of migrant farmworkers, Oseguera said he was careful to approach the process with an impartial eye. He said he wanted Californians from outside of the area to get a perspective on water rights from a group not often seen -- farmworkers.

"The water situation is so complicated; it cannot be defined just in one single film," Oseguera said. "I think people can really sympathize with struggle."

If the film can generate sponsorship and buzz, Oseguera said, he would like to show it in Modesto and Fresno. For more on the film and to see the trailer, go to www.thefightforwaterfilm.com.

Los Banos Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanosenterprise.com.

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