We spoke with critically acclaimed director Alejandra Márquez Abella about her new film A Million Miles Away and about authentically telling Mexican-American stories. 

A Million Miles Away stars Michael Peña and draws inspiration from the true story of José Hernández, the first migrant farmworker to become an astronaut. The film follows José and his family on their journey from a rural village in Mexico to the fields of California to the International Space Station. With the support of his family and community, José never gives up on his dream of going to space.

Interview with Director Alejandra Márquez Abella

Alejandra Márquez Abella is a prominent and celebrated Mexican filmmaker whose work sheds light on stories of resilience and empowerment. She is known for capturing the strength of individuals who overcome obstacles. Her films serve as a source of inspiration for marginalized communities.

Abella has over a decade of experience in the industry. She has written and directed for TV, contributing to HBO’s Savage Detectives and directing two episodes of Netflix’s Narcos: México. Her work in film includes Semana Santa (2015), Las Niñas Bien (2018), and Amazon Prime’s Northern Skies Over Empty Space. These films have all been critically acclaimed, and they have established Abella as a trailblazer in the Mexican film industry.

A Million Miles Away centers around the idea of sacrifice and family support. We asked what were some of the things that were most important to the director when it came to telling the story of the family support. 

“I think I wanted to portray with truth of how Latinos work together. You know, we are used to having communal efforts, and I think that was the main thing for me, just having people see that,” said Abella.

One of the things that I really appreciated about the film was the representation without the negative stereotypes. On the subject, Abella stated, “I think that many times Mexicans and Latinos display their personalities as Americans want to see them, you know, and we are not coming back to the authentic personality that we have. So we portray ourselves in ways that are stereotypical. So I wanted to avoid that. I wanted to speak to the community. I want the Mexicans and Mexican-Americans to see themselves on the screen and say, that’s me.”

Based on the incredible true story of José Hernández

NASA has received over 18,000 applications for each astronaut class in recent years. According to NASA, they chose their most recent candidates from a field of more than 12,000 applicants. Considering the humble background he comes from, this makes José Hernández’s story all the more inspiring.

Photo Credit: Daniel Daza/Prime

A Million Miles Away follows José Hernández and his devoted family of proud migrant farm workers. Together they embark on a decades-long journey, from a rural village in Michoacán, Mexico, to the fields of the San Joaquin Valley, to more than 200 miles above the Earth in the International Space Station. With the unwavering support of his hard-working parents, relatives, and teachers, José’s unrelenting drive & determination culminates in the opportunity to achieve his seemingly impossible goal.

Photo Credit: Daniel Daza/Prime

Acclaimed writer and director Alejandra Márquez Abella worked to showcase the loyalty and tenacity of the entire Hernández family. Based on the book Reaching for the Stars: The Inspiring Story of a Migrant Farmworker Turned Astronaut by José Hernández.

A Million Miles Away begins streaming on Prime Video September 8.

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