Photo of Miguel Barrios and his mother, Angelica Garcia, sharing a moment that is part of the award-winning short film “My Mother, My Hero.”

Miguel Barrios and his mother, Angelica Garcia, share a moment that is part of the award-winning short film “My Mother, My Hero.”

Miguel Barrios did not have to look far to find the inspiration for a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire video art class project that he turned into the international award-winning short film “My Mother, My Hero.”

“When I work on something that I am really passionate about, I tend to do a very good job at it,” says Barrios, a senior graphic design major who graduated from Alma Center High School. “My mom has devoted so much to me.”

Barrios won the grand prize this month in the U.S.-Mexico Bicentennial Kaleidoscope Short Film Contest organized by Arizona State University in recognition of the 200th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The Kaleidoscope contest received more than 850 entries.

Barrios created the film in an Art 383: Video for Art and Design class taught in 2022 by Jyl Kelley, professor of art & design. Kelley says she knew Barrios was passionate about telling the story of immigrants such as his mother.

“When Miguel was at the beginnings of developing a documentary assignment for the class, he asked if this story about his mother was worth pursuing,” Kelley recalls. “There was absolutely no hesitation on my part to completely support him in documenting such an important piece of his life, as well as knowing that this story about his mother is a mirror to a story that is much bigger.”

In “My Mother, My Hero,” Angelica Garcia tells her story of life in Mexico and the U.S. as she struggled to make enough money to support her children despite rising at 4 a.m. to work 12-hour days.

Barrios refers to the project as “our film” because it combines his mother’s story with his artistic talents. After receiving the award, they attended the screening of “My Mother, My Hero” together at the Motion Picture Association in Washington, D.C., this month, a “surreal” experience, Barrios says.

“I told myself I wasn’t going to cry and was going to be professional,” Barrios says. “About halfway through it, I felt the watery eyes. The sad part wasn’t even on yet and I was already crying. It was just the thought of being there watching our film.”

Barrios’ film also will be shown at the University of Guadalajara in Mexico and at the Mexican Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Los Angeles.

“The department of art & design tries to help every student realize that they can have this kind of experience when they advocate for their creative achievements,” Kelley says. “As I tell all of my students, learning how to express your ideas visually and impactfully is one of the most valuable parts of learning how to make visual art. Understanding technical tools are an important step in forming the ideas, but there is nothing without the idea. Miguel’s main focus came naturally when he drew from his life and his passions to create this successful video documentary.”

The grand prize includes $5,000 and Barrios already knows what he will do with the money. His mother’s home in Jackson County caught fire earlier this month, so the money will be used for her housing needs.

In the film, Garcia says one of her life goals is to see her son graduate from college, “something that I couldn’t do, and something my parents couldn’t give me.”

Barrios will graduate in December before he begins his marketing career.

Written by Gary Johnson

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