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Long Gone By Uncovers Shadowed Struggles Of Undocumented Immigrants

On Friday, May 1st, HBO preferred the new eye-opening feature, Long Gone By on its HBO Latino channel. 

Starring Erica Muñoz and directed by Andrew Morgan, “Long Gone By” presents the struggles that undocumented individuals go through daily that most of society may not normally recognize. The story takes place in the small town of Warsaw, IN, where a single mother and her daughter make every effort to live as undocumented citizens. Originally from Nicaragua, Ana Alvarez, played by Erica Muñoz, risks everything when she and her daughter, Izzy receive a deportation order after Izzy receives an acceptance letter from Indiana University. Because Ana cannot receive federal funding due to her citizenship status, she goes beyond the lengths of trying to give Izzy the life she deserves in the United States. 

One riveting aspect of Long Gone By is the action and emotion that manifests from the screen to the viewer’s eyes and mind. Throughout the film, Ana’s character has to solve problems that may not seem ordinary to most people. There is such raw anticipation of what is going to occur next, and Erica portrays Ana amazingly well. She studied with Anthony Meindl at AMAW and she reflects on what they both told her about embracing everything inside of her based on her own human experience. 

“In that sense, the preparation for the role was really about going inward into my own experiences as a mother and daughter of a single mother and pulling from that to create who Ana is,” Erica says. “Almost more challenging for me than the preparation for the role was overcoming the imposter syndrome that has kind of plagued me from the beginning of my career. I really struggle with the underlying feeling that I don’t belong here.”

Erica says that this was the biggest role in her career and that Andrew trusted her implicitly, motivating her to believe that she belongs in a leading role. 

Long Gone By
Long Gone By still/Courtesy of Shark Party Media

“My voice is valid,” Erica says. “I had to give myself permission to take up space. Andrew made that almost effortless in creating such a complicated and interesting character and allowing me to take ownership of her. Once I did that, everything fell into place.”

Andrew has known Erica for a number of years and always knew that he wanted to base a film around her. 

“She has this power, as a person as well as a performer that I found completely captivating,” Andrew says. “The character of Ana was left very simple on the page because I knew what she could create and from the first day on set I was really just in aw of what she was doing. There is restraint and wisdom to her character that just blew me away, she reached past easy sentiment to something so much more brave and beautiful.”

As the film industry is adjusting daily during these weird times, it’s challenging in the sense that people are dealing with so much in their own lives. Yet, for Andrew, he believes that in some strange way, “Long Gone By” is coming out at the perfect moment. 

“Right now we are being forced to slow down and that gives us a unique opportunity to reflect on how we have chosen to build and shape our society,” Andrew says. “I see film as the art of empathy, inviting us to step inside someone else’s shoes – seeing the world through their eyes. I hope this story serves to humanize the struggle facing so many and is a small part of advocating for a broader more build kind of moral imagination in regards to how we protect the most vulnerable among us.”

To add to that, Erica says that she is blown away by the support that HBO has made in unknown Latinx talent. 

“It’s hard to feel anything but gratitude,” Erica says. “You have to remember I’ve been in this industry for a long time. The biggest obstacle we had with the film was that it had no “name.” Despite Andrew having the option to cast a better-known actor in the role, he chose to hire a total unknown and then a platform like HBO chose to invest in this small independent movie. It just speaks to their intentional investment in elevating unknown Latinx talent. So many people are talking about it and HBO is actually doing it. I’m grateful.”

“Long Gone By” is now available to stream on HBO Now, HBO On Demand and HBO Go. Viewers can stream the film here.