Boca Chica

Unrestricted access to beaches is a public right in
Texas. But for the little-known, magical, and untamed stretch of beach
called Boca Chica, that right is curtailed when SpaceX takes flight.
Boca Chica uncovers the mesmerizing beauty of this fragile coastline
and the fight for free access for its longtime visitors whose memories
and spirituality are rooted deep among the sandy shorelines.

  • Ái Vuong
  • Samuel Díaz Fernández
  • Nick Price
    Reel South
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Runtime:
    13 minutes 33 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    October 6, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    20,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Hot Springs Film Festival
  • New Orleans Film Festival
Director Biography - Ái Vuong, Samuel Díaz Fernández

Ai Vuong is a Vietnamese-born and Texas-bred producer, writer, and photographer. Prior to receiving a master’s of NGO Management and Public Policy from NYU, she worked in Vietnam for 6 years on youth development and leadership. She served as the Executive Director of a local NGO in Vietnam called the Friends of Hue Foundation. She co-founded TÁPI Story in 2018, a production company that focuses on human-centered stories told from a systemic perspective with compassion, empathy and dignity. In 2021, TÁPI Story was awarded a Silver Telly for their short film, “Remember Love”, documenting the memories of the orphaned children of the war on drugs in the Philippines. “La Cosecha,” a short documentary she produced and co-wrote, premiered at SXSW as part of the Texas Shorts Competition in 2023.

Samuel is a Colombian-born filmmaker, TEDx speaker, and educator with over 15 years of experience in the field. He has formerly served as global coordinator for communications and advocacy for the World YMCA, and a communications consultant for the International Labour Organisation in Geneva, Switzerland. He has most recently produced videos for the South China Morning Post, Google Arts + Culture Foundation, NALAC, as well as for Square and Pepsi. In 2022, he was named a National Geographic Explorer for his upcoming short doc on Thermal Inequities and Community perceptions of heat in Austin TX. This will comprise one part of his Austin trilogy—a series of shorts that focus on the lived experience of vulnerable communities in Austin around themes of heat, food access and flooding. His latest film—”La Cosecha”—had its world premiere at the SXSW film festival in 2023. He is also the co-founder of TÁPI Story and the School of Slow Media—a documentary filmmaking training program, based in Southeast Asia, that mixes filmmaking practices with somatic methodologies and a new awareness of the ethical demands of filmmaking. Samuel is also a Jackson Wild Media Lab Fellow for 2023.

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Director Statement

While I have lived in Texas for over two decades, I had never felt rooted to Texas. My feet were always above ground, floating constantly until the day it could root back in its homeland. I have always been fascinated by stories of migration, and its direct counterpoint: stories of deep-rooted connection to land. What inspires me is how simultaneously spiritual and somatic people feel a deep connection to their land, and how our ancestors define who we are, and our home.

When you drive the stretch of land between Brownsville to Boca Chica, you will see flat lands for miles. The closer you get to the beach, you will start seeing sand dunes and hills covered in thick brush called lomas. For my first trip to Boca Chica, I was most surprised by the undeveloped land: I have never seen miles of natural habitat that is not enclosed, or considered private property in Texas. When I arrived at the beach, I was stunned. The beach was untouched: there were no resorts, restaurants or businesses. If I closed my eyes, I felt as if I had gone back in time.

What drew me to Boca Chica is that this unique place represents home in so many facets. It’s a refuge for hundreds of shorebirds refueling from their journey from the Arctic to Southern Chile. The beach is also a solace for families who have been making memories in these waters for generations. Of course, it was hard to ignore SpaceX located right before the entrance to the beach, a facility that promises to take us into the future.

The story of Space X at Boca Chica is one of those unfolding stories where the beauty of one beach—accessed by a single road only and filled with the memories of residents, the traditions of indigenous communities, and the inherent right to a free beach for those with less economic resources—are being traded off for colonial dreams of space. As we look skyward toward the technological progress we are promised, what is lost right where we stand? What happens when something vanishes without memory or archive of its existence? What do we gain? Who gains, and who loses?

This documentary focuses on that trade-off and offers viewers a sensory ride into memory, origins, and value. It invites us to re-encounter this land with fresh eyes. But the film is not meant to provide answers to any of these questions. My hope is that it elicits more questions, and for us to be suspended in the tension of the space in between. It is in this discomfort that we might find our sense of what is home, and how might we work to preserve what we have, both here in Boca Chica and beyond.