Aloe Blacc – “Wake Me Up”

The DJ mix of Aloe Blacc’s song “Wake Me Up” was the #1 song around the world in 2013.

For the acoustic version, Aloe wanted to connect the song’s lyrics, which speak of hope and struggle, to the fight for justice and freedom for immigrants in America.

Through the National Day Laborer Organizing Network Alex Rivera proposed a story to Aloe Blacc that would turn the themes in the song into a specific story told in pictures. The result, the follow up to La Santa Cecilia’s ICE/El Hielo is another mini-film, again made in collaboration with a cast of mostly undocumented actors, some actively fighting deportation. While “ICE/El Hielo” focused on the tragedy brought on by a workplace raid, “Wake Me Up” focuses on the life journey that leads a young woman to stand up to the systems of control around her.

“Wake Me Up,” a unique collaboration between a musician, a filmmaker, and a grassroots community organization, is an example of the type of cultural production only possibly at the exact crossroads of cinema and activism.

As part of the #NOT1MORE campaign, NDLON invited Alex Rivera to dialogue with the band La Santa Cecilia about their song “ICE / El Hielo.”  What emerged was the concept for a ground-breaking music video that collaborated with a cast of undocumented actors, some actively fighting deportation. In the video, the actors relive parts of their life stories, in a unique performance neither documentary nor fiction.

The result, which The New York Times called “a powerful video that soon went viral,” is an example of the type of cultural production only possibly at the exact crossroads of cinema and activism.

At the invitation of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, Manu Chao traveled to Arizona to witness the human rights crisis facing migrants there and to give a free “Alto Arizona” concert.

I shot a short music video of Manu in front of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s infamous “Tent City” jail before the show on September 21, 2011.

Footage of Tent City donated by Daniel DeVivo and Valeria Fernandez. For more of their powerful imagery from Arizona, visit

I produced this short video with award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa for to preview her PBS documentary “Lost in Detention,” a film exploring the extraordinary growth of the immigration detention system under the Obama administration.

Produced by / Animations by

For more information:

A collaboration with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA) and Puente Movement, this video features a live performance by Chilean MC Ana Tijoux in Arizona, with a group of undocumented youth activists who participated in a historic civil disobedience action, directly confronting ‘America’s Toughest Sherrif,’ Joe Arpaio. This video was produced as part of the “Alto Arizona” campaign. More info here:

Director/Editor: Alex Rivera
Director of Photography: Lisa Rinzler
Additional Camera: Daniel Devivo
Protest Footage: PanLeft Productions
Thanks to: Alonso Parra

Developed with support from the gallery at CALIT2 at the University of California, San Diego

MEMORIAL OVER GENERAL ATOMICS  is an aerial sculpture. Its object of inspiration is the beguiling military drone, or ‘Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.’

The materials that constitute the sculpture are multiple, some of them often found in drones: aluminum, acrylic, a GPS locator.  However, the unusual primary material used is more often found down below military drones, as an aftershock of their presence: human bones.

MEMORIAL OVER GENERAL ATOMICS  uses human radial bones, found in the arms of every person, as ‘the arms’ of the flying machine.  The memorial completes a troubling circuit, becoming a drone re-embodied, a machine made of the aftermath of life.

The below video is a document of the first flight of MEMORIAL OVER GENERAL ATOMICS, into airspace over General Atomics, based in San Diego, California, which manufactures some of the killer drones that are being deployed around the world.

THE INFILTRATORS is a docu-thriller that tells the true story of young undocumented immigrants who get arrested by Border Patrol, and put in a shadowy for-profit detention center – on purpose.

The protagonists are members of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, a group of radical Dreamers who are on a mission to stop deportations. And the best place to stop deportations, they believe, is in detention. However, when the activists try to pull off their heist – a kind of ‘prison break’ in reverse – things don’t go according to plan.

By weaving together documentary footage of the real infiltrators with scripted re-enactments of the events inside the detention center, THE INFILTRATORS tells this incredible true story in a boundary-crossing new cinematic language.

The Hollywood Reporter said of the multiple Sundance award-winning film “rather than feeling like homework, watching it is a thrill.”   The Trailer is below, the full film is available here.

By Alex Rivera and Angel Nevarez lets users remotely pilot the ‘LowDrone,’ a vehicle which melds the lowrider, a customized car outfitted with hydraulics that allow the car to ‘hop,’ with the functionality of the drone, an unmanned aerial vehicle equipped with surveillance cameras that has been an evolving weapon and tool of airborne surveillance for nearly a hundred years.

Lowriders are a technology developed primarily by Latino youth in barrios across the southwest.

Drones are a technology recently deployed along the U.S. / Mexico border.

Through, users control a customized lowrider – the ‘LowDrone’ – and ‘hop’ over one of the most surveilled spaces on the planet: the U.S./Mexico border between Tijuana and southern California. was commissioned for InSite2005, as part of ‘Tijuana Calling,’ curated by Mark Tribe.

The LowDrone was first exhibited as an installation in 2012 as part of the show ‘Drones at Home,’ at the gallery at CALIT2, at the University of California, San Diego.

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