Sansón and Me is Not Your Average Film About Immigration

Rodrigo Reyes’s documentary Sansón and Me is a moving portrait of the unlikely friendship of two Mexican migrants, told within the frame of the dramatic clash between systemic forces and personal choices that envelop young, incarcerated men of color in America. 

Sansón’s life is defined by borders—between Mexico and the US, between freedom and incarceration, between fact and fiction. While serving two life sentences for murder, he grapples with the ways he has traversed these borders in conversation with his interpreter-turned-friend, filmmaker Rodrigo Reyes, 2020 Creative Capital Grantee. Told through dramatic reenactments, Sansón and Me reveals one man’s attempt to reconcile things that have happened to him and things he has brought on himself. At the same time, Reyes’ interrogates the ethical implications of his own transformation of Sansón’s life into art. 

The film will premieres at BAM in Brooklyn, NY, from March 3–9, 2023, followed by a Q&A with the director on March 3 & 4. In advance of the exclusive New York theatrical run, Rodrigo Reyes shares his journey of making this personal film.

A hand holding a film clapboard.

A scene from Sansón and Me, photo by Alejandro Mejía AMC.

As a documentary filmmaker, I ground my work in my identity as an immigrant, crafting cinema rooted in the margins of Mexico and the United States. I hope to portray the contradictory nature of our shared world, while revealing the potential for transformative change. 

I am interested in how systems of control and power interact with reality and impact the lives of individuals whose voices have been erased. While often vast in scope, grappling with issues as complex as immigration, the legacy of colonialism or the carceral system, I always build my stories on a deep bond with REAL PEOPLE. I engage their lives with active listening and respect, helping to construct bonds of deep trust and collaboration that aim for artistic excellence. My goal is for audiences to feel moved, outraged and above all, empowered to reimagine our world.  

A young man sitting in a car.

A scene from Sansón and Me, photo by Alejandro Mejía AMC.

Sansón and Me: The Inspiration
I could have made a lot of stories about incarceration and immigration, but the fact is that Sansón is my friend. Our lives crossed paths, and we became bonded to one another…I don’t want his story to be erased. This film is my contribution to his resistance, and I hope that struggle rings true for the audience as well. 

A child running in the ocean.

A scene from Sansón and Me, photo by Alejandro Mejía AMC.

We need to fully look at each other, and that process is painful. Sansón is more than his crime, but he is also more than his memories. He is a man trying to bring sense and purpose to his life, a man who invited me to look into his soul and who is welcoming us into his hopes for the future.

A man setting down railroad tracks while another man looks on.

Behind the scenes of Sansón and Me, photo by Alejandro Mejía AMC.

The Journey
Artists all love something new, an electric and fresh vision that resonates with our soul. Yet many of us are actually afraid of taking the risks we need to get there. I know I was. We are afraid of starting on a journey without clear answers, without a destination. But that’s where the real breakthroughs happen.

A man outside of a car, putting his arm through the car window and steering the wheel.

Behind the scenes of Sansón and Me, photo by Alejandro Mejía AMC.

For the longest time, we struggled with fundraising. I tried everything, animation, essay, verite filmmaking, talking heads…It was painful and grueling, but in hindsight, it was an amazing experience. I was privileged to spend 10 years testing the waters of my craft, together with collaborators that I admire.

A boy sitting in a car.

A scene from Sansón and Me, photo by Alejandro Mejía AMC.

What kept me going for 10 years? The honest answer is: I know in my heart that Sansón is not alone. There are thousands of other young men just like him, who have been punished without justice. I could not let myself become complicit in this horror and ignore my friend’s story.

A boy with food in front of him with his head on his hands, on a table.

A scene from Sansón and Me, photo by Alejandro Meiía AMC.

Creative Capital is a badge of honor that I wear with pride. It was a signal to the world that it needed to pay attention.

People in a theater.

Photo by RR Cinema LLC.

On March 3rd, 2023 Sansón and Me will open at BAM in Brooklyn, NY. From there, we will be in theaters in select cities across the country. I am delighted to bring this film to the world!

A man at a table writing a postcard. People writing postcards at a table.

Photos by RR Cinema LLC

I hope this journey in theaters will bring audiences closer to Sansón. I plan to help this connection by giving out postcards at the end of each screening…so folks can write directly to Sansón!

Sansón & Me will have an exclusive New York theatrical run at BAM in Brooklyn, NY from March 3–March 9, 2023. There will be a Q&A with Rodrigo Reyes on March 3 & 4. Courtesy of Cinema Guild, the theatrical run will soon expand to select cities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles.