Juana Doe

El Paso, Texas | Film Short

Drama, Fantasy

Ramón Villa-Hernández

1 Campaigns | Texas, United States

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This campaign raised $11,332 for production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

111 supporters | followers

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Along the Texas/Mexican border, immigrants are dying from dehydration, heatstroke, or hypothermia after crossing the border illegally. A wave of skeletal remains are showing up near the Texas border and local forensic anthropologists are drowning in work. Help us give a voice to these remains.

About The Project

  • The Story
  • Wishlist
  • Updates
  • The Team
  • Community

Mission Statement

This film is about Malena, a 1st generation Mexican-American female scientist, and her experience with the dead. Juana Doe is the poor female immigrant whose bones are discovered on Day of the Dead. This film will discuss culture along the border. Our team will be made up of womxn and men of color.

The Story

Juana Doe is fiscally sponsored by The Film Collaborative, a 501(c)3 organization.

ALL donations are tax deductible.


Para leer sobre nuestra campaña es español visite: https://goo.gl/oWPsYA



We ran out of water. We are very tired. Please keep praying for us.

- Last text message sent by a Texas border crosser to her sister. Her body was never found.


     Along the Texas/Mexican border, undocumented immigrants are dying from dehydration, heatstroke, or hypothermia after crossing the border illegally into Texas. The text message above is an example of the last form of communication a loved one receives before a border crosser goes missing. Statistics are showing that border crossers are calling 911 for help via a “throw-away” cell phone but sometimes 1st responders don’t arrive on time. Before crossing, many immigrants are coerced to travel without identification so it's harder to detain them if apprehended. It also makes it harder to identify when their bodies are found.

     A wave of skeletal remains are showing up near the Texas 15 foot border fence and local forensic anthropologists are drowning in work. With the anticipation of the 30 foot border “wall”, being installed by the Trump administration, many predict these numbers will double all along places a border wall will be impossible to build.

     More on how the border "wall" will be geographically impossible in some sections. Click HERE


    Forensic anthropologists create a story from recently discovered bones. Sometimes these evidence based connections help loved ones have closure. In many cases, DNA evidence from exhumed bones is vital to help scientists determine a cause of death and a place of origin. In many underfunded Texas border communities, local officials can't afford DNA testing, so to save money they bury them in mass graves.

      During my research I was able to discover that in one county in Texas, 90 miles from the border fence, the bodies and remains of more than 500 migrants have been found since 2009. I learned that unidentifiable migrant remains were disposed of in milk crates and/or garbage bags into unmarked graves. I've added a graph in my images page to show how many deaths have been documented.

      Texas law requires that all unidentifiable remains be given a DNA test but many of these border communities, with an influx of immigrant deaths in their counties, can’t carry out a standardized or coordinated manner of collecting samples. These actions make it difficult for volunteer forensic anthropologists when exhuming bones because the samples can be contaminated. This creates conflict for the scientist trying to do their job properly and difficult for loved ones from far away to get closure.

     My protagonist is Malena, 35, a 1st generation Mexican-American forensic anthropologist working under these difficult conditions. She speculates that border officials are not collecting DNA samples properly on purpose given they have a strong anti-immigration stance that we will see throughout the story. This in turn creates a frustration in her because she knows it is Texas law to collect a proper DNA sample on all unidentifiable remains no matter the status of citizenship. Her adversary is Dr. Sanchez, a local coroner/judge who would rather be playing golf than dealing with volunteer forensic scientists snooping in his backyard.

     According to Southern Poverty Law Center, “Anti-immigrant hate groups are the most extreme of the hundreds of nativist and vigilante groups that have proliferated since the late 1990s, when anti-immigration xenophobia began to rise to levels not seen in the United States since the 1920s.”      

     My story takes a turn when a local teenager discovers a set of bones that are linked to an undisclosed mass grave. These skeletal remains belong to Juana. During an examination of Juana’s skeletal remains, Juana's spirit enters Malena’s body, believing she is Malena. For Juana and Malena this feels surreal. Juana waking from a long nap and looking through the eyes of Malena and for Malena, she feels a spirit is camping inside her body.

     As she looks for clues to identify Juana’s origin, she is confronted with DNA contamination that happened when they buried her remains. The bones have different DNA samples, are severely damaged, and Malena must conclude she can’t properly identify her.

     In order to get her body back, Malena must give Juana a proper moment of closure. This is the remedy to the newly discovered supernatural ability Malena has developed. Her body will be the bridge that helps lost souls cross into the spirit world.

     This recent discovery of her supernatural abilities happens on Day of the Dead (Dia De Los Muertos) holiday.

    Malena will help Juana who is stuck in a place that is ni de aqui, ni de alla (neither here, nor there) and transition her to the next phase of her journey by cremating her bones.

     The film ends with Juana crossing into the spirit world with the help of La Coyota (half-woman/half-coyote) and Malena moves on to the next set of skeletal remains.

   This story is about death, hope, empathy, and compassion. I want to produce an evidence based narrative that discusses immigrant lives. I want to produce a film about the people who work under strenuous conditions on the border (Forensic Anthropologists, Border Patrol Agents, & 911 Call Operators). I will present a point of view that reflects a unique border identity. One of resilience, culture, and empathy. I will create a film that is a catalyst to discuss this humanitarian crisis. 

Timeline & Completion

      We want to fundraise for 30 days starting on Thursday Nov. 2nd. 

      Work for about a month after that on pre-production to start creating a production schedule and securing the crew and cast. We want to start shooting in 2018 by including everyone who is interested in our project and continue to have your support all along its journey.

Your donation helps with our PRODUCTION phase.

    With every donation you give, we fine tune the project in pre-production and open the film pre-production process to the public by sharing it with you all along the way. LIKE and SHARE us on all your social networks.


We have already created a short visual storyboard (POC Short Film) that you can look at to get a taste of the tone. Review our MEDIA tab.


This will give the film an opportunity to increase its quality in ways we couldn't alone because we already worked out issues that arise when working with a no-budget production.


   Most of the money raised during pre-production will go towards securing a Super 16mm Film camera/lens package thru MPS Austin. See breakdown below:


Where The Money Goes

  • Super 16mm film camera/lens package via MPS in Austin  - $2670
  • Super 16mm film negative Vision3 250d - $1070
  • Feed our cast and crew - $1800
  • Hire cast and crew - $1250
  • Production Insurance for the Super 16mm film camera/lens package rental - $1000
  • Lab negative Processing/Telecine - $1100
  • Art Department/Location Permits - $1000
  • Contingency (Murphy's Law) -$1000
  • Grip Truck Rental - $800
  • Art Dept (props and set staging) - $750
  • Location Permits - $560
  • Rewrites will be FREE and the Director will be donating his time.
  • Please review the videos in our media section so you can see the transformation of a scene to a sequence of scenes on our POC Short Film.



Use the WishList to Pledge cash and Loan items - or - Make a pledge by selecting an Incentive directly.


Costs $500

We need to hire actors so they can take time off from work to help us with our project.


Costs $750

We need to hire a crew to get our vision made.

Film Camera for 3 Days

Costs $2,670

S16 Arriflex SR3 Rental via MPS Austin with super speed lenses.

Kodak Film Vision 3 250D - 16mm

Costs $1,070

Shooting ratio is 6:1. 6 rolls at $178.54 each.

Lab Negative Process Prep for Telecine

Costs $500

We need to develop the Super 16mm film at CineLab

HD 1080P Telecine Transfers 2 HDD

Costs $600

We need to transfer telecine film to see how it will translate digitally.

Cash Pledge

Costs $0


Costs $1,000

You can never budget for for the unexpected. It's important to be prepared.

Production Insurance

Costs $1,000

This covers camera equipment and general liability insurance.

Art Department

Costs $750

Props and Set Staging (Skeletal Remains/SF Make-up/Pop up tents/gloves)

Feed our Crew

Costs $1,800

Catering and Craft Services


Costs $560

Looking for the perfect exterior (daylight) locations. Permits from the City of El Paso

Grip Truck with Equipment

Costs $800

Designed to contain everything we need and easily be worked by one our two crew members.

About This Team


Writer/Director: Ramón Villa-Hernández

     Villa-Hernández is an El Paso based multi-talented film artist/musician/lecturer. Recently he has been producing/directing short docu films for El Paso’s PBS station sponsored by PBS Digital Studios. His topics are distinct El Paso stories such as immigration, ghosts, murals, and boots.

    In 2012, he was part of the producing/writing team for Los Chidos (2012), a feature film shot in Guadalajara, Jal., MX. This film had its World Premiere at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival in Austin, TX. The film was selected to be part of the Narrative Competition category.

     Villa-Hernaández works full-time at the University of Texas at El Paso. He has been teaching digital media production for the past 2 years. 



Villa-Hernández es un artista/músico/profesor con múltiples talentos en El Paso. Recientemente ha estado produciendo/dirigiendo cortometrajes documentales para la estación PBS de El Paso patrocinados por PBS Digital Studios. Sus temas son historias específicas de El Paso, como inmigración, fantasmas, murales y botas.   


En el 2012 formó parte del equipo de producción/redacción de Los Chidos (2012), un largometraje filmado en Guadalajara, Jal., México. Esta película tuvo su estreno mundial en el Festival de Cine SXSW 2012 en Austin, TX. La película fue seleccionada para ser parte de la categoría Competencia Narrativa.   


Villa-Hernández trabaja de tiempo completo en la Universidad de Texas en El Paso. Ha estado enseñando producción de medios digitales durante los últimos 2 años.   



Producer: Jennifer Lucero

     Lucero is a multimedia artist and activist that uses video production to create insightful interactions among communities. Graduated from the University of Texas at El Paso in Electronic Media Journalism and Women’s Studies, Lucero was determined to focus on crucial and diverse human experiences to be heard.


     An opportunity to produce a 60 minute documentary called Catching Babies explored the lives of mothers and midwives living on the US-Mexico border. Continuing the message of health and hope, Lucero began to work with nonprofits as a community health educator. Using media, Lucero produced culturally competent multimedia presentations on pertinent health information-empowering people with education to make safe and conscious choices about their health.


     In 2016, a grant from the City of El Paso, assisted her to produce a documentary about women musicians from the Borderlands. The Appleseed Project plants seeds of inspiration around the musical platform it promotes. Intimate and confessional, the musicians share their musical experiences as the audience listens the sound of original songs. Currently, Lucero works as a freelance multi-media producer in her home city.




Lucero es una artista y activista multimedia que utiliza la producción de video para crear interacciones críticas entre las comunidades. Egresada de la Universidad de Texas en El Paso en las áreas de Periodismo Digital y Estudios Sobre la Mujer, Lucero estaba decidida a enfocarse en que las diversas y cruciales experiencias humanas fueran escuchadas.   


Una oportunidad de producir un documental de 60 minutos titulado Catching Babies exploró las vidas de las madres y parteras que viven en la frontera entre Estados Unidos y México. Continuando con su mensaje de salud y esperanza, Lucero comenzó a trabajar con organizaciones sin fines de lucro como educadora de salud comunitaria. Haciendo uso de los medios, Lucero produjo presentaciones multimedia culturalmente competentes sobre información de salud relevante, capacitando a las personas mediante la educación para tomar decisiones seguras y conscientes sobre su salud.   


En el 2016, una beca de la Ciudad de El Paso, la ayudó a producir un documental sobre mujeres músicas de la frontera. El Proyecto Appleseed planta semillas de inspiración en torno a la plataforma musical que promueve. Íntimo y confesional, las músicas comparten sus experiencias musicales mientras el público escucha el sonido de las canciones originales. Actualmente, Lucero trabaja como productora multimedia independiente en su ciudad natal.  


Current Team