Valencia filmmaker brings awareness to the power of community

Laura Carlson speaks to a group of attendees after watching the English version of her 28-minute film, "Beyond Barriers," at the Laemmle Theater in Newhall on Wednesday, November 3. Jose Herrera/The Signal

By Jose Herrera 

Signal Staff Writer 

The United States’ immigration policies can be controversial topics of discussion, but filmmaker Laura Carlson wanted to capture how national politics impact local communities in her short film, “Beyond Barriers: Esperanza Sin Fronteras.” 

Carlson, a Santa Clarita Valley resident, showed her film at the Laemmle Theater in Newhall on Wednesday evening in an event that marked the debut of the Spanish version of the 28-minute short film. After the screening, Carlson hosted a question-and-answer session with attendees. 

“My goal was to create awareness that people who live on opposite sides of the border can actually work together to make a difference in people’s lives,” Carlson said. “It doesn’t matter where you live. They (people) can create change in the place where they live.” 

Her film was screened at the Cannes Short Film Festival in 2019 and made its U.S. premiere in February 2020 at the Golden State Film Festival at the TCL Chinese Theater. 

“Beyond Barriers” follows the story of the Naco Wellness Initiative that was started in Mexico by her uncle-in-law Tom Carlson. Carlson documents the journey of people on opposite sides of the U.S.-Mexico border as they come together despite economic, health care and political barriers to create a center of wellness and hope.  

Santa Clarita Valley community members listen to filmmaker Laura Carlson share her experience documenting the town of Naco, Sorona in Mexico on Wednesday, Nov. 3. Jose Herrera/The Signal

 Naco is located in the northeast part of the state of Sonora, which is on the border with the U.S. It’s directly across from the unincorporated town of Naco, Arizona.  

Laura first became interested in telling the story of the Naco Wellness Initiative after hearing Tom tell stories about living along the Arizona border, and ongoing efforts to meet the community’s health care needs.  

The community had less than three doctors and one wellness center with low capabilities. However, the initiative began in 2004 in an effort to provide free health clinic services to the community and now it receives approximately 12,000 visits per year. 

After many trials and tribulations, the people of Naco have two wellness centers, a community garden, and programs that focus on preventive health, physical therapy and more.  

“There was something serious about this that has to be told,” Carlson said. “You know, the dedication was so strong.  I think we can all make changes you know, if you see something that needs to be changed, you can look into it.” 

Laura Carlson and Tyler Holtman speak with attendees about their 28-minute film “Beyond Barriers” during a mid-Q&A at the Laemmle Theater in Newhall on Wednesday, Nov. 3. Jose Herrera/The Signal

Carlson invited Santa Clarita Mayor Bill Miranda to the film event, and he participated in the Q&A. 

“We have to remember everybody in our society. We have to embrace everyone in our society,” Miranda said. “There are people who need our help. There are people here in Santa Clarita that need our help. It is on us to help them. It is on you.”  

Faculty and students from College of the Canyons also came out to support the film screening, and they also announced that they were inspired to help Naco’s community.  

Diana Rodriguez, COC student and president of the Spanish Honor Society, said the organization will be organizing a school and creative supplies drive to benefit the more than 1,000 children in Naco.  

“This is a great opportunity for people to get involved – not only in their community, but also to help people in Mexico, especially during the pandemic,” Rodriguez said. 

Carlson is working on a part two, which will focus on Naco’s community as they struggle to survive through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS