SXSW 2022 Film Review and News: What We Leave Behind

The 2022 Film Festival program included 100 features including 76 World Premieres, and among them is Austin-based Director Iliana Sosa’s documentary, What We Leave Behind (Lo que dejamos atrás). She received the 2021 AFS Grant for this, her first feature documentary. The film centers on Sosa’s grandfather, Julian (over 80 years old), who is told that he can no longer travel on his lengthy bus rides each month to the U.S. to visit family. The widower then begins building a house in rural Mexico for the family (seven children and their offspring). He also wants to ensure his blind son Jorge has a place to live after his death.

Sosa filmed over the course of several years, primarily in Durango Mexico (and Texas). Sosa had thought her documentary would be about her grandfather’s participation in the U.S. Bracero Program, but the project shifted with the help of her fellow filmmakers. The audience learns more about Julian Moreno and Sosa’s memories of him.

Sosa’s film shows her asking questions as he works in the house or on the one he is building. The topic of his bracero life comes up, as well as asking him about the love he has for her departed grandmother. She tries to get him to talk about the courtship, but he is quite reserved and yet excited when he simply tells Sosa, “I talked to her, and she said ‘yes.’” His response is sweet, short and to the point.

What We Leave Behind has captured the displays of emotion in several scenes. The one that got to me the most is the scene of Julián lying in his bedroom, surrounded by family members. I knew it was his final moments, as it reminded me of our time with my mama and siblings, all huddled in prayer. Sosa is recording and the grief in her voice can be heard off-camera as she joins the family in prayers.


Sosa’s first feature documentary won two SXSW Special Awards, the Fandor New Voices Award and the Louis Black “Lone Star” Award.

About: Fandor is proud to present the first ever Fandor New Voices Award, celebrating an outstanding feature making its worldwide premiere this year at the 35th annual SXSW festival. At Fandor, we are delighted to elevate the work of inspiring, imaginative, and independent storytellers, so it is with great pleasure that we present the Fandor New Voices Award to a female or person of color who is making their directorial debut with a Narrative Feature or Documentary. Fandor is and always will be proud to uplift the work of these amazing filmmakers.

About: To honor SXSW co-founder/director Louis Black, a jury prize was created in 2011 called the Louis Black “Lone Star” Award, presented to a feature film world premiering at SXSW that was shot primarily in Texas or directed by a current resident of Texas. (Opt-in Award)

Jury: “Iliana Sosa’s exquisite documentary What We Leave Behind is a love letter to her Mexican grandfather, whose final decline she chronicles with artful grace. It is also a moving look at a family disconnected by both border and dreams, and how their patriarch, too old now for his monthly 20-hour bus rides from Durango into Texas, worries who will hold the center once he’s gone. Eighty-nine year old Julian has the face and gravitas of an old time movie star. Sosa has made a profound, gorgeous movie worthy of her precious subject.”

Filmmakers: Director: Iliana Sosa, Producers: Emma D. Miller, Iliana Sosa, Isidore Bethel (co-producer)

Subtitle: Spanish, English subtitles Region: Mexico, United States Length: 72 minutes

Thu, Jun 09 2022 8:00pm, – AFS Cinema- 6259 Middle Fiskville Rd, Austin, TX 78752

Source: SXSW, AFS, Cine las Americas

Leave a comment