A music career is a risky bet. In “Mija” the stakes are even higher.

As a middle school student with big dreams living in San Bernardino, California, Doris Anahi Muñoz turned her bedroom walls into a canvas. She painted her hands on the back of her door with the words, “These are the hands of Doris Anahi Muñoz and they will touch the hearts of millions.”

As the main subject of the Disney Original Documentary, Mija, Muñoz, an artist manager-turned-musician, aims to do just that with her story: to connect with children from immigrant families who yearn to pursue a career in the entertainment industry but are struggling feel alone or guilty about their desires when their households face urgent daily struggles.

The film’s director, Isabel Castro, follows Muñoz as she works to advance the careers of Latin musicians like Cuco and Jacks Haupt, while helping her undocumented Mexican family navigate the green card system.

“A lot of us carry the weight of our families, and I needed a movie like this growing up,” Muñoz said in a recent video interview from Boyle Heights, Calif., where wooden bookshelves were filled with falling leaves and porcelain vases filled the room. “So I’m just glad that when I’m sitting in that seat as a protagonist, it allows other people to see themselves.”

The only one of her parents’ three children to be born in the United States, Muñoz grew up playing the saxophone and violin in a family of evangelicals who hoped she would use her talents to become a worship leader. The summer after her sophomore year, Ed Sheeran nodded her on stage to sing along to his hit single “Lego House” at a radio event, which reignited her passion for music.

She wrote songs and performed live for a time, but she realized she was uncomfortable in the spotlight and would rather work behind the scenes. Her first major venture of her own was managing Cuco, a bedroom pop artist who broke through by staying true to his Mexican-American heritage and making music for Latino kids who felt invisible.

The film traces Muñoz’s early work with Cuco as she orchestrates his sell-out concerts and helps him land a seven-figure record deal, a success that helped fund her parents’ application for permanent residency in the United States

As the pandemic hits and (spoiler alert!) dealing with the pressures of splitting up with Cuco, Muñoz rediscovers her purpose in Jacks Haupt, a Dallas indie singer-songwriter who, like many young artists, is struggling to reach a wider audience to find .

Haupt, 22, grew up in her Chicano household listening to Joe Bataan’s “Mujer Mía” and other Latin soul classics, and also drew inspiration from Amy Winehouse, Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin. Haupt’s bilingual music has since evolved into a more electronic trip-hop sound, and she often sings about heartbreak and mental health.

Haupt calls music her diary and it has been a supportive system over the years. But early in her musical career, she said she lacked the support of her family. “Working in art as a photographer, videographer, immigrant, POC parents tend to say: ‘You don’t make money with that,'” Haupt said in a video interview from Dallas.

Building a career in the arts can take money and time—resources that are scarce for immigrant families facing challenges such as the journey to citizenship and finding financial resources. The film documents Muñoz’s close ties to her family: her gratitude during Thanksgiving dinner, trips to see her brother who was deported to Tijuana, Mexico, and the ongoing struggle for her parents’ green cards.

“For those who feel alone in their process, I want this film to capture them,” Muñoz said. “As a kid, I had big dreams of my family reuniting and getting together and hopefully one day telling their story.”

“Mija” director Castro’s work includes the short documentary “USA v Scott,” about an American geographer facing jail time for helping migrants in Arizona, and “Darlin,” a New York Times op-doc about the A Honduran mother’s struggle to reunite her son after being separated by US border detention policy. Castro said she was drawn to the stories of Muñoz and Haupt as an indie music lover who realized that Latin artists aren’t represented in this world.

“I got really interested in how Doris, Cuco and the entire community were really trying to find a place for themselves in this very musical space that I grew up with,” Castro said.

The film switches from Haupt’s dreamy stage performances and recording sessions in Los Angeles to a heated phone conversation with her mother about what is traditionally considered profitable work. Castro said the conversation was reminiscent of a conversation she would have with her own mother, at moments when she felt guilty for not living up to expectations.

“My ambition and my career are rooted in a sense of responsibility for the sacrifices my parents made for me,” she said.

“My hope is that people, especially Latinx viewers and viewers of color, will come out of the film with a sense of hope,” Castro added, “and feeling confident that pursuing creative careers is a worthwhile goal and worth pursuing.” can pay off with hard work and persistence.”

In the time since Mija was filmed, Muñoz has closed her management company and started releasing her own music under her stage name Doris Anahí. Last week she performed, as did Haupt, at the film’s premiere in Central Park. (The film opened in theaters in New York and Los Angeles on August 5 and is coming to Disney+ on September 16.)

“Our parents come from a generation of survival,” Muñoz said, “and we are a fortunate generation that gets to think about thriving rather than surviving.”

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