This Op-Doc video explores the relationship between an immigrant caretaker and an elderly woman in the last months of her life.
Joesy, a Fijian immigrant, works long hours providing live-in care for 95-year-old Haru Tsurumoto in Sonoma County, Calif. Through intimate and quiet scenes, we explore Joesy’s complex relationship with Haru. The two respect each other in part because each has experienced being an outsider in the United States — Joesy as an undocumented immigrant who fears she could be sent back to Fiji, and Haru as a Japanese-American who was sent to an internment camp during the Second World War.
When we first visited the women, we immediately sensed that they had a unique connection. Haru had recently lost the ability to communicate clearly with words, but Joesy seemed to know what Haru needed. With a soft touch of the hand, a reassuring voice and concerned attentiveness, Joesy cared for Haru 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Their story represents just one of the remarkable relationships between caregivers and the elderly that take place every day in the United States. For live-in workers like Joesy, an estimated two-thirds are paid below minimum wage.
This film is the first in a series for our new online interactive documentary, Immigrant Nation. Each film aims to show how the immigrant stories that permeate our lives are nuanced, complex and often hidden behind closed doors.
Theo Rigby is a documentary filmmaker based in San Francisco who has focused his work on immigration in the United States for the past decade. His last film, “Sin País,” won a Student Academy Award and was broadcast on PBS in 2012. Kate McLean is a writer and filmmaker based in San Francisco and a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism.
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