ELENA CRUZ-DOMINGUEZ—single, self-absorbed, and childless—is ready to retire and start a family. Given her middle-age, she decides to adopt. But in a pre-adoption foster-parenting test, the agency unexpectedly matches her up with LUCHA—a brash, tween, undocumented orphan. But it ain’t easy. Because Lucha represented all of Elena’s negative perceptions of undocumented migrants, sparks fly. And eventually Little Miss Orphan Badass proves too much for Elena in what turns out to be foster-parenting hell.

Before being dragged back to the agency, Lucha reveals how she and her mother were caught and separated from each other at the Texas border the year before. Then it becomes clear that Lucha is no orphan at all —but a “real life” casualty of the Family Separation policy. Though Elena starts out as an immigration hardliner, regarding the Zero-Tolerance crackdown as a necessary evil, at that moment, something clicks within her. And, throwing political rhetoric to the wind, she risks everything—making it her mission to reunite Lucha with her mother.

Now, on the run from ICE, her “mission” forces them to cross the southern border—breaking multiple laws—on a grueling trek where they must survive a series of dangerous obstacles and comic misadventures involving federal agents, bounty hunters, wild animals, and armed narco farmers.

Over the course of their trek, they bond. And, by journey’s end, Lucha finds her mother, and Elena learns what it means to become one.

  • Roger Edwards
  • Roger Edwards
  • Roger Edwards
  • Mike Cole
  • Allison Simeon
    Key Cast
  • Marina Vidal
    Key Cast
  • Camila Beatriz
    Key Cast
  • Carl Taylor
    Original Score
  • Project Type:
    Animation, Short
  • Runtime:
    7 minutes 57 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    February 17, 2022
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
    English, Spanish
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Roger Edwards

Formally educated as an electrical engineer, Roger Edwards has worked as an engineer and technical writer for several Fortune 500 telecommunications companies after graduating from North Carolina State University. With aspirations (since high school) in the entertainment industry, Roger used his spare time to engage in a variety of creative writing efforts—including screenwriting. His producer preparation has been multifaceted and has included involvement in various phases of theatre and film production—such as assistant directing for community theatre, as well as working as PA, Grip and Sound Recordist on low-budget film/music video productions.

A series of successes followed: Roger’s first teleplay was locally produced for a children’s fantasy drama series (“SPARKS,” WRAL-TV)—which led to a two-year staff writing position. His first short screenplay took the First Place prize in a screenwriting competition. His second short screenplay earned him a Finalist nod in the ABC Entertainment/Walt Disney Studios Talent Development Program. His first feature screenplay was quickly optioned. And his TV spec for the “2 BROKE GIRLS” sitcom nabbed Finalist in the Filmmatic Comedy Screenplay Awards.

These successes prompted Roger to take his passion to the next level and enroll in the Hollywood Film Institute’s Film Producing Program and to later enroll in the USC School of Cinema-Television MBA program. Unfortunately, he had to give up his seat in the prestigious program to address an urgent family matter—requiring his personal involvement and financial assistance. Although, putting family first meant missing that “door of opportunity,” he decided to form his own company (Cool Breeze Communications)—for prying those “doors of opportunity” back open again.

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Director Statement

In 2018, we all witnessed the disturbing images of children being separated from their parents at the southern U.S. border—during the Zero-Tolerance immigration crackdown. In 2019, a DHS Inspector General report disclosed that many more families were separated than previously acknowledged. And now in 2022, a new Physicians for Human Rights report quantifies what we’ve, intuitively, known all along—that the family separation policy had psychological and emotional trauma among its devastating consequences. On top of that, thousands of families still have not been reunited. So, the family separation crisis is not over. There’s more work to be done.

Apart from its entertainment value, we hope "LUCHA and the EKEKO" can also serve as an advocacy tool. In solidarity with advocates for immigrant justice, this film can serve as a tool—supporting their work to raise awareness and fight against the lingering and devastating consequences that the Zero-Tolerance “family separation” policy has caused mothers, children and families.

In addition, given the interwoven themes of motherhood and redemption, we hope that "LUCHA and the EKEKO" helps strengthen positive narratives around foster care and adoption—thereby helping build public support.