When Making Movies was recording “A La Deriva,” songwriter Enrique Chi had a theme in mind.
“I sort of tweaked the lyrics so the record was tied to this linear arc,” Chi said.
That theme was how an immigrant Latino family deals with the struggles of life in the United States.
About a year ago, the band started producing a video series focusing specifically on undocumented immigrants, drug addiction and domestic abuse.
“That is an incredibly intense situation to be in,” Chi said. “On top of all the fear you have to live with as a woman, if you have the guts to get help, but you have to worry about getting deported or the only breadwinner in the house getting deported.”
Making Movies has been in its current formation since 2009, the year it started fusing Latin and Afro-Cuban sounds with rock. In addition to Chi, members include his brother Diego Chi, Juan-Carlos Chaurand and Brendan Culp.
Earlier this month, in partnership with nonprofits such as the Mattie Rhodes Center, Making Movies released the first two videos in the series.
In the first video, set to snippets of “Cuna de Vida,” the album’s opening track, a man played by Jorge Roman pulls up to a convenience store, cashes a paycheck and then heads for an alleyway, where he buys drugs.
In the second video, set to “Lo Que Quiero,” the second track on “A La Deriva,” a mother played by Vanessa Davis prepares a meal with assistance from a young girl. Shots of food sizzling on a stove are interspersed with images of an insect trapped in a spider’s web and with an empty white chair surrounded by three white brick walls.
The man from the convenience store arrives, disgruntled. He disappears, but emerges, sitting in the white chair, feeding his addiction. Footage is shown of him with the little girl as an infant, singing to her and feeding her. Happier times. As the video comes to a close, the woman departs with the little girl and a packed suitcase, leaving behind a note for the man.
Chi said the idea for the series arose during time he spent at the Mattie Rhodes Center, where he gives guitar lessons and where Making Movies conducts an annual summer music clinic.
“After the lessons wrapped up, I’d hang out and talk shop with the staff,” he said. “Many of them are part of the therapy programs. Mattie Rhodes has a lot of youth programs but those are secondary to broader programs, like mental health and family counseling.”
He started hearing stories of people dealing with drug addiction and domestic violence, a problem in every community and all social strata. But there’s a difference in the Latino community, Chi said.
“Any situation where the father of a kid is abusive in some way — that’s difficult no matter what your social environment,” he said. “But you add an undocumented status to it and women are so afraid to get help because they think if they do, the husband might be deported or they may be deported. And a lot of time the people being abusive use that as ammunition.
“You hear about the social issues of drug addiction and domestic violence but not the combination of the two plus the undocumented status.”
And that’s what the “A La Deriva” video series will address. One of its missions is to let anyone in that situation know there are ways out.
“A lot of organizations understand this issue,” Chi said, “and they are aware that there are visas available for victims of violence. It’s things like that that a lot of people don’t know about.”
Another intent was not to vilify the abusers or addicts as monsters, he said, but to portray them as people in bad situations who need help.
“They’re not necessarily horrible people. They may be people who need help, people with illnesses who make bad decisions,” he said.
The plan is to produce a video for each song on the album, although, Chi said, he has given himself leeway.
“We’d like to get to 10, but I don’t know,” he said. “That may shift, depending on our touring. I know we will do more than five, and I know I have a way to wrap up the narrative no matter how many we make.”
Two other videos have been completed; they will be released monthly, Chi said. He has received an abundance of support and assistance from the Kansas City arts community.
“Kansas City is such a fertile place for something like this,” he said. “We got the word out and so many people were eager to get involved, to work cheap or lend their time or crazy-expensive equipment.”
Daniel Myers, the on-set director for the project, had worked with Making Movies on other videos. This one was unlike projects he typically works on.
“It actually had some substance and meaning,” he said. “I mainly work with aesthetic concepts — fun, light-hearted visual concepts.
“I learned a lot from all this. It gave me a different perspective on families and individuals immigrating to the U.S. or any other place for a better life. I think we captured the feeling we were trying to get.”
The goal now is to get the videos before people who most need to see them. Thus the partnerships with Mattie Rhodes, the Latina Domestic Violence Project, Casa de Esperanza and the Domestic Violence Resource Network.
“That’s the push now,” Chi said, “to get the word out about the videos and get the information in the videos to anyone who might be in that situation.”