Private Project

Five Years North

Five Years North is the coming-of-age story of Luis, an undocumented boy in New York City desperate to bring the American Dream back home to Guatemala. Alone, he struggles to work, study, and evade Judy—the Cuban-American ICE agent who patrols his neighborhood.


15-year-old Luis Lopez arrives alone in New York City after a dangerous journey north. He’s spellbound by the bright lights of Times Square and the promise of a better life. Over the next few years, reality sets in as he desperately tries to learn English, navigate high school, work temporary jobs, and manage expectations from his parents back home.

Working nearby is Judy, a veteran Cuban-American ICE agent and native New Yorker. Although Judy’s Cuban parents voice their disapproval of ICE, she feels grateful to have a stable job with benefits. Under mounting pressure from the administration, and growing frustration with the shifting focus away from criminals, Judy decides to follow her own rule book.

Five Years North’s unparalleled access and observational approach makes for a gripping story and valuable entry point to understanding America’s broken immigration system.

  • Zach Ingrasci
    Living on One Dollar, Salam Neighbor, Rosa - These Storms, For My Son, The Undocumented Lawyer
  • Chris Temple
    Living on One Dollar, Salam Neighbor, Rosa - These Storms, For My Son, The Undocumented Lawyer
  • Alejandro Valdes-Rochin
    Science Fair, Maxima, The Weight of Honor, At the Fork, Waves for Water, The Naked Truth
  • Jenna Kelly
    The Undocumented Lawyer
  • S.J. Murray
    Executive Producer
    Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution, Imba Means Sing, The Need to Grow
  • Morgan Kays
    Executive Producer
  • Ari Rastegar
    Executive Producer
  • Kellie Rastegar
    Executive Producer
  • Pedro Kos
    Consulting Editor
    The Square, Bending the Arc, Generation Wealth, Audrie & Daisy
  • Fernando Villena
    Consulting Editor
    Any One of Us, The Fourth Phase, Every Little Step
  • Nick Kraus
    Director of Photography
    Vice News Tonight, The Trade, All This Panic
  • Chelsea Bond Stuart
    Associate Editor
    Frame by Frame, The Black Belt, El Hara
  • Jorge Molina
    Production Coordinator
  • T. Griffin
    Dragonslayer, Children of Invention, The Family I Had, The Family, Rewind, End Game
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 28 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    March 27, 2020
  • Production Budget:
    950,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    Guatemala, United States
  • Language:
    English, Other, Spanish
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
    Durham, North Carolina
    United States
    World Premiere [Festival Cancelled]
Director Biography - Zach Ingrasci, Chris Temple

Chris and Zach are filmmakers and the founders of Optimist, a non-profit production studio that creates films with impact. They are best known for directing the feature documentaries Living On One Dollar and Salam Neighbor. Their films have been released by Netflix, Amazon Prime, National Geographic, and The Atlantic. In addition to Five Years North, they recently directed the short documentary, The Undocumented Lawyer, set to premiere at Tribeca in spring 2020.

Every film they make is accompanied by an impact campaign to create measurable outcomes. Their projects have raised over $91.5 million dollars for the films’ causes and have changed over 275,000 lives.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

We didn’‬t set out to make an immigration film‭. ‬In 2010, while working on a different project, we met seven-year-old Luis, a quirky kid in small-town Guatemala. We’ve kept in touch with him ever since, watching as this shy child grew into a bubbly and opinionated teenager. ‬‬Then in late 2017, at just 16 years old, Luis arrived alone, and without papers, to New York City.

We began to make a documentary about his new life, but quickly realized we’d have to reckon with a powerful force: ICE. It took over a year to get filming approval from the agency, but we eventually did. That’s when we met Judy, the supervisor responsible for Luis’ neighborhood. The rare access to these two main characters opened the door for a unique perspective on a topic as big as immigration.

Judy and Luis challenged our preconceived notions with every turn. Their choices often surprised us, and were at times enraging. Questions began to surface: How do we justify our actions when we know they are hurting others? What lengths should we go to for family? What is the human cost of the American Dream?

We didn’t plan to make a film on this topic. But we’ve been inspired through the process to deepen the conversation about immigration, and to drive tangible change to help those being crushed by the system.

-Chris Temple and Zach Ingrasci