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The Search

Feature   |   English   |  USA - UK




GENRE Social Impact Drama


TAG-LINE: Searching for a new life can be deadly!


LOG-LINE: Fleeing their country, Carmen and her mother join the Caravan of migrants and find themselves separated, with no hope to reuniting.


Writer: Carol Robelo


Producer: Carol Bidault de l'Isle


Countries of production: Mexico, USA 


Duration (in minutes): 90


Budget (M$): $3 Million USD



During the Central American migrant caravans, also known as the Via Crucis del Migrante, are immigrants desperate to seek refuge from their country rife with violence.  Several humanitarian organizations try to reunite divided families after being processed and held for hearings. Until their fate is decided, the separated children are watched over by MRS. MURRAY and other workers who try to feed and protect these innocent victims. The US officials attempt to identify the children to help reunite them with their families.


One of these young "prisoners" is 10-year-old CARMEN. She is traumatized and responds "No se" ("I don't know") to all questions, although she speaks a little English and grew up in an educated, working-class Honduran family. The Mara Salvatrucha Gang members killed her brother and her father, an engineer, for failing to pay the "protection" money they demanded. Carmen and her mother, leave everything behind and join the caravan and try to make it to the US where her uncle lives in Louisiana. Carmen and her mother are captured trying to seek asylum, Carmen and her mother are sent to separate camps. One of the workers who is processing Carmen, asks her about a scar on her arm, with MS and it is suggested that MS stands for Mara Salvatrucha aka MS 13. Carmen is too scared to explain how she got it. Ms. Murray makes the notes.


Days pass in the detention center, then some of the children are loaded into trucks and ambulances for transfer to other camps. The children in Carmen's group are at first terrified.  Carmen's friend Raoul forces open the back door and the children scatter in all directions as the officials try to capture them. Carmen and Raoul try to swim across a river to escape from the Border patrolmen. Raoul drowns, but Carmen hides in the reeds.


While Carmen is hiding, she is accidentally found by an American army engineer, STEVE, who tries to help her. Steve starts teaching her English. She is a quick learner, but because Carmen cannot recall her name, Steve calls her “Jane”.


When Jane sees a girl with her mother, she starts remembering her own mother and when she last saw her, near a fence in the camp. She runs away one evening thinking the fence is nearby. Jane finds a fence at a factory, but cannot find her mother among the workers going home. Steve eventually finds Jane and tells her that he will try to find her mother, but there are no documents that can help identify her. Steve has reason to believe she is some other camp in California where they were caught or even deported back to Honduras, but he tries to continue the search for Jane's mother. He also informs Jane that he is going to try to officially be her guardian and take her back to America to start a new life there.


As it turns out, Carmen's mother, MRS. MARTINEZ, is alive and determined to find Carmen. In a parallel story, she has been searching for her daughter. She asks for the help of all the volunteer organizations such as the RAICES, ACLU, The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, Border Angels, Kids In Need of Defense, Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project. Because there were no efforts to track the families, Mrs. Martinez is resigned to resume her nearly-hopeless search for Carmen, reminding all organizations, officials, about her identifying scar.


That same day, Steve takes Jane to one the Immigrant agencies trying to begin the process of taking her to Louisiana where he resides. He is told that his best chance is to leave her behind and to send for Jane once the paperwork is completed. Mrs. Murray looks stunned as she remembers what one of the mothers has told her about her daughter, their trauma in Honduras, on the trip and then being captured, and how she got the scar (FLASHBACK - MS 13 gang members arrive at the Martinez home demanding money. When her older brother tries to fight back, the gang kills him. When Mr. Martinez tries to plead with them, they grab Carmen and when they demand a lot of money, he starts to cry that he just doesn't have that type of money. One of the gang members grabs Carmen and begins to cut the little girls arm. When he jumps to try to protect her, one of the gang members stabs him.) Suspecting that Jane is Carmen, Mrs. Murray calls the other camp to bring Mrs. Martinez back, but she has been sent to another camp and there is no way to communicate with her. Then, she sees Mrs. Martinez on the news, behind a fence interviewed by a journalist, she speaks English in a thick accent.


Mrs. Murray contacts the camp and is able to speak with her, she tells her that she has seen her daughter. Mrs. Murray tells Steve about Mrs. Martinez's whereabouts. He contacts her. When he is able to meet with Mrs. Martinez, she is both grateful, but scared, can she trust this man? He tells her how she found Jane. He shows her a picture of Jane. Mrs. Martinez corrects him and tells him that her name is Carmen. Steve calls Jane and  Facetime's her. Mrs. Martinez has never used this but quickly sees that it is her daughter. When she yells "Carmen!",  Carmen realizes that it is her mother and the girl and his mother are reunited, in an emotional climax. They have to hang up and Steve tells Mrs. Martinez that he will continue to work with the agencies to reunite her with Carmen. She begs him to stay with Carmen and not leave her. She has lost everyone in her family and can’t be left again. She also warns him that if he ever touches her, she will kill him. She apologizes for the outburst, but she is at her wit's end. Steve tries to comfort her and let her know he will do what he can. They hang up and Steve feels very helpless. 


Final Card:

In September 2018, nearly 12,800 immigrant children were detained by the U.S. government, a record-high figure spread across 100 federally contracted shelters that is five times higher than the amount held in May 2017.


2,500 of those children arrived with their families and were separated under a new Trump administration policy. The remaining children in custody arrived as unaccompanied minors. More than 2,000 of those separated children have since been reunited with their families after a judge issued an injunction. About 500 remain in shelters, alongside at least 12,000 other children who have arrived in the United States on their own. By the numbers, that means that potentially 3,000 new unaccompanied minors have been detained by the U.S. government, and have not been released.



Agencies that help refugees and immigrants:

·RAICES – The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES);

·ACLU- The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU),

·The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights

·Border Angels

·Kids In Need of Defense

·Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project


Based on the story of motion picture“The Search” directed by Fred Zinnemann, written by Richard Schweizer, David Wechsler, Paul Jarrico, Montgomery Clift, Betty Smith, Peter Viertel