Detained in the Desert

From the writer of "Real Women Have Curves" comes a powerful story in protest to the anti-immigrant laws and hate speech towards Latinos.


Two people on opposite sides of the immigration debate find each other lost in the desert and discover their humanity and the true plight of migrants crossing the Arizona desert. 


Detained in the Desert parallels two completely different people: Sandi, a second-generation dark skinned Latina, and Lou Becker, an inflammatory talk show radio host, whose lives converge in the Sonoran desert in Arizona. An Arizona cop racially profiles Sandi, who refuses to show her identification in protest. Her act of rebellion sets her on an unexpected course toward immigrant detention. Conversely, three siblings who have just suffered the loss of their brother due to a hate crime influenced by Lou’s racist talk show, kidnap him in hopes of seeking justice. While Sandi is being transferred to another immigrant detention center, her I.C.E. bus crashes in the desert. She escapes only to end up stranded in the desert.  Lou is freed by one of his supposedly remorseful kidnappers. Consequently, Sandi and Lou meet in the desert and help each other survive.  Both Sandi and Lou come to understand the severity of the plight of the immigrants through a gruesome discovery.



Detained in the Desert is based on the play of the same name written by Josefina Lopez. The play is Lopez’s response to the anti-immigrant atmosphere in Arizona and the rise in violence against Latinos fueled by extremist media. It is now becoming a low-budget independent film produced by Real Women Have Curves Studio and fiscally sponsored by Josefina Lopez’s non-profit organization, CASA 0101.

The project is a human rights film and fundraiser for Border Angels, founded by Enrique Morones in 1986. Border Angels is a non-profit organization that works to stop the unnecessary deaths of individuals in the desert by delivering water in key points where migrants cross the desert. This film is a stand against hate and hate crimes in the US against immigrants and their families.

Real Women Have Curves Studio is an independent production company founded by Josefina Lopez whose mission is to make films that celebrate women of all shapes, sizes, and colors as well as reveal the authentic stories of Latinos in the U.S.

CASA 0101 is dedicated to providing vital arts, cultural, and educational programs in theater, digital filmmaking, art and dance to Boyle Heights, thereby nurturing the future storytellers of Los Angeles who will someday transform the world.




Josefina Lopez, screenwriter, playwright, novelist, best known for co-writing the screenplay to the Sundance Award Winning film Real Women Have Curves (2002), was angered and tired of hearing about the hate crimes committed against Latinos and all the anti-immigrant hate talk in recent years that she decided to write a play to protest SB1070 and all the anti-immigrant laws.  She has won several awards for the play, “Detained in the Desert” (2010), and she now wants to take it to a bigger audience so people can learn about the true plight of Latino immigrant and shatter myths and misconceptions concerning illegal immigration.  Being an immigrant herself, Josefina wants to give a voice to the undocumented people who are scapegoated and vilified yet are the most powerless to tell their side of the story.

Josefina was also inspired to write this story after having participated in Marcha Migrante led by Border Angels’ founder Enrique Morones and visited the cemetery in Holtville, Arizona where the unclaimed bodies found in the desert of over 600 migrants are buried.  She got to see photos of the bodies found in the desert and was haunted by the images she saw. Josefina has also seen Enrique Morones tirelessly put out water at the water stations in the desert to help migrants crossing the Arizona desert stay alive.  He has also debated Sheriff Arpaio and other anti-immigrant activists as well as fight to shatter myths about immigrations with his humanitarian work. Josefina wants to create a movie that could help raise funds for BORDER ANGELS so they can continue to do their humanitarian work at the desert on a larger scale.

When Josefina watched the award winning short film, Child of the Desert (2011), by director Iliana Sosa, she felt that Iliana could adapt the play into a film. For Iliana, this film boldly and unapologetically addresses issues of Latino/a identity, the unnecessary deaths of immigrants in the desert and the deadly impact that hate speech in the media has on communities of color.

For producer, Frances E. Chang, the film exudes a universal message that transcends all races, culture, and gender and speaks to us as humans. As a country that began and is made of immigrants, this is America’s modern story.


We are currently in pre-production and anticipate heading into principal photography in mid-June 2012. Production ends early July 2012. We need your help to proceed with post-production and get this message out to help tell the truth.


We need your help to launch this critical phase of the filmmaking process: POST-PRODUCTION and getting festival-ready.

Your generous donations will pay for:

  • Post Production
  • Film festival materials
  • Website

Each donation is tax deductible through our fiscal sponsor, CASA 0101!



Josefina López is best known for authoring the play and co-authoring the film Real Women Have Curves (2002).  Although Real Women Have Curves is Lopez’ most recognized work, it is only one of many literary and artistic works she has created since her artistic career began at 17.  Born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico in 1969, Josefina Lopez was five years old when she and her family immigrated to the United States and settled in the East Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights.  Josefina was undocumented for thirteen years before she received Amnesty in 1987 and eventually became a U.S. Citizen in 1995. Josefina is the recipient of a number of other awards and accolades, including a formal recognition from U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer’s 7th Annual “Women Making History” banquet in 1998; and a screenwriting fellowship from the California Arts Council in 2001.  She and Real Women Have Curves co-author George LaVoo won the Humanitas Prize for Screenwriting in 2002, The Gabriel Garcia Marquez Award from L.A. Mayor in 2003, and the Artist-in-Residency grant from the NEA/TCG for 2007.  She is also the Founder and Artistic Director of CASA 0101 Theater in Boyle Heights. At CASA 0101 her commitment is to teach screenwriting and playwriting and nurture a new generation of Latino artists. Josefina is actively working to create an Artist District in Boyle Heights where theater, arts, music can flourish and create opportunities for the many talented artists who reside in Boyle Heights or grew up in Boyle Heights and want to return to contribute.  Josefina is presently developing the musical version of Real Women Have Curves for Broadway.  Her first novel titled Hungry Woman in Paris came out in 2009. Detained in the Desert is Josefina’s first production from Real Women Have Curves Studio.

Iliana Sosa is a writer/director based in Los Angeles. She was born and raised in El Paso, Texas along the U.S.-Mexico Border to Mexican immigrant parents. Her work addresses socially relevant and cultural issues that affect marginalized communities in challenging and refreshing ways. A former Bill Gates Millennium Scholar, she holds an MFA in film production and directing from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and TV. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Steven Bochco Fellowship, the Hollywood Foreign Press Award, the Edie and Lew Wasserman Fellowship and the National Hispanic Foundation of the Arts Scholarship, among others. Her MFA thesis film, Child of the Desert, recently won Best Short Film and the Texas Award at the 2012 Oscar qualifying, USA Film Festival. She is honored to be directing and adapting Detained in the Desert to the big screen in her debut feature film.

Frances E. Chang has worked in the film industry in both Northern and Southern California and often strives to represent diverse, ethnic and underrepresented voices in her projects. She entered filmmaking while studying Mass Communications at the University of California, at Berkeley, in 2008 then attended Berkeley Digital Film Institute on a full scholarship. After moving back to Los Angeles in 2009, Frances became involved with festival favorite, Strapped (2010), then worked for Cape Cod Films, LLC., where she participated in the distribution and marketing for multi-festival winner Wild About Harry (2010), for which she attended the Cannes Film Festival & Market. In 2010, as part of its signature diversity talent development program, Project:Involve, Frances was awarded with a fellowship in the producing track by the esteemed non-profit organization Film Independent. Frances produced her first narrative feature film, nightdreamblues, in fall 2011 with her second feature, The Lovely Rejects, following shortly in the same year.  As a freelance producer and writer, Frances has worked on multiple media projects, including music videos and narrative filmmaking, and currently resides in the Los Angeles area. Detained in the Desert will be Frances’ third feature film.

Judy Phu is a freelance Director of Photography and part-time Professor of Cinematography/Film Production at Loyola Marymount University. She studied cinematography at UCLA's MFA program, learning from Johnny Simmons, ASC, Vilmos Zsigmond, ASC, John Bailey, ASC, Tom Denove and Bill Mcdonald. She has camera operated for veteran documentarian Joan Churchill, ASC, on her film about Haskell Wexler, ASC, giving Judy the opportunity to meet one of her cinematography idols. Judy's work includes over 2 dozen short films, commercials, web content and the upcoming feature documentary, The Laundromat by Director Vanessa Yee. She is in preproduction on a comedy feature as the Director of Photography, slated to go into production in early 2013. She is a fan of natural lighting, mixing color temperatures, and collaborating on compelling stories. Detained in the Desert marks her fourth collaboration with Writer/Director Iliana Sosa.

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