The Long Walk of Carlos Guerrero

: Fiction
GENRE: Drama
STATUS: Post-Production


The odyssey of survival of an undocumented New York city chef and a young girl from El Salvador, after they get stranded in the deserts of Arizona.


After twelve years in the city, accomplished New York City Chef and undocumented immigrant, Carlos Guerrero leaves his family behind and risks everything to return to Mexico to see his ailing mother one last time.

The film tells the story of his epic return journey, when he and a young girl from El Salvador, after crossing the border, get stranded in the deserts of southern Arizona.



In the early 2000s, I saw a small article in the New York Times about the soaring death rate of migrants crossing the border into Arizona. Being an immigrant myself, I was deeply moved by this story. On a whim, I flew to Tucson. I had no idea I would spend the next three years, making my documentary Crossing Arizona (Sundance - 2006). The film is a wide-angled snapshot of what I saw and experienced over that period of time along the Arizona - Sonora border. In Sonora, I met Central Americans who had fled political and gang violence and were about to make the treacherous crossing through the desert; in the vast Tohono O’odham Reservation, I followed Mike Wilson, a Native American humanitarian who was desperately trying to stop migrant deaths by creating water stations in desolate areas of the desert; in Southern Arizona, I met ranchers who were angry with migrants cutting fences and entering their property in search of water; and then there was the ascendancy of the Minutemen, an armed right-wing militia group, patrolling the border.

Many years later, my dear friend Carlos Garcia died suddenly of cancer in New York in 2015. Carlos was Anthony Bourdain’s sous chef for many years at Les Halles Brasserie and eventually succeeded him as the Executive Chef after Anthony left to do television. Carlos was from Puebla, Mexico. He had started as a dishwasher and worked his way up the hardscrabble rungs of New York’s restaurant scene to become the Chef of a popular French brasserie. During much of his career, Carlos was also an undocumented immigrant.

Undocumented people in the United States have few rights and live in a constant state of uncertainty and fear. But one of the most underappreciated consequences of being undocumented is how they get cut off from their families, as they cannot return to see their parents, siblings, and sometimes even their wives and children. They remain trapped in their current circumstances in the U.S. so they can continue to provide for their distant families. This trauma is rarely talked about and inspired me to write the story of an undocumented New Yorker, who takes the ultimate risk to return to Mexico after many years to see his ailing mother one last time. From there, I could tap into everything I knew about the borderlands to tell the story of his journey back to New York. Everything in the story is true as they are based on my own experiences or stories I heard from others. The film is a homage to my friend, Carlos, and a way for me to acknowledge the humanity of all the undocumented Americans who live amongst us.


Joseph Mathew - Writer, Director, Producer

Joseph Mathew was born and brought up in Kerala, India. After he moved to the U.S in 1994, he eschewed a career in Finance to pursue a lifelong covert dream of becoming a photographer and filmmaker. He studied photography at the Maryland Institute College of Art. His interest in photojournalism led him to freelance assignments for the Associated Press and other local newspapers. With the advent of Digital Video in the late 1990’s he ventured into long-form storytelling. He first got recognized for his documentary, Crossing Arizona. Almost three years in the making, it was the definitive film on immigration along the U.S’ southern border. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006 and has won numerous awards and distributed around the world. Roger Ebert called Crossing Arizona “one of the films I admired most at Sundance.” In 2009, Joseph made his first feature narrative, the award-winning Bombay Summer. Set in Mumbai, India, the film follows the lives of three young people over a summer during a time of social upheaval. Shot in real locations all over the city, the film played in numerous international film festivals. The New York Times wrote: “...a rare film from India that speaks the language of international art-house cinema”. Joseph lives in New York City.


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