VISTA — Looking through the lens of her father, Vista High School sophomore Zahlia Alcala found a vision.
So she, along with Vista High sophomore Odalis Ramirez and Vista Visions Academy sophomore Melissa Ramirez, turned her father’s journey from immigrant, to successful businessman and eventual college graduate into a compelling five-minute documentary film titled “El Sueño Americano!” (The American Dream).
And the result was being awarded one of the top honors for high school film students, the Panasonic KWN New Vision Award and a trip for the trio to New York City.
“I thought of my dad because of all the hard work he does,” Zahlia Alcala said. “I introduced it to the club and they all thought it was a good idea.”
The three budding filmmakers started the project in January, showcasing Ignacio Alcala’s journey from Mexico to the U.S., his struggles with learning a new language, finding work, building a business and raising a family.
Perhaps most importantly, though, was his drive to earn his high school GED, and attend and graduate from MiraCosta College while juggling all those responsibilities.
The film begins with Zahlia Alcala speaking to the audience about this man, who is not revealed to be her father until the near end.
But the film’s strongest message, the three said, is not looking at Ignacio Alcala as an immigrant, but rather as a man, husband, father and dedicated person paving a better path for him and his family.
“His story is so unique,” Odalis Ramirez said. “He really, truly embodies ‘El Sueño Americano.’ When I heard his story and what he had to overcome and where he is now, it was so inspirational. We wanted to capture and put it in the limelight that he is one of many immigrants, but is making something of his life.”
Melissa Ramirez said Ignacio Alcala’s best quality was his drive to further his education no matter the obstacles in front of him.
The deeper message, she said, is “if he can do it, so can we,” thus providing inspiration to others and showing no matter the difficulties in one’s path, people can achieve their goals.
The production did hit a snag three days before the filing deadline, Zahlia Alcala said. The three lost all of their edits, so they had to go back and re-edit the entire movie over those three days, putting in countless hours to submit the film.
On Feb. 1, Ignacio Alcala’s birthday, the three students submitted the film and weeks later were notified of their win and all-expense paid trip to New York City from May 9 to May 12.
The trip is twofold: to celebrate those award winners and to award the national winner, who will move on to the international competition in Japan later this year.
“We were all crying,” Melissa Ramirez said upon hearing the news. “It’s just something extremely incredible. It’s a ceremony for the winners, but we are also planning on having a good time and seeing the city.”