Jacks Haupt Makes Disney+’s ‘Mija’ a Radical Immigrant Story
Jhe singer Jacks Haupt appears on screen dressed as a vampire: gothic, glamorous, sensual. She wears her black hair long and wavy, winged eyeliner, glossy lips, dangling earrings – with fake fangs neatly glued to her canines.
Scenes roll by: Haupt delicately sprays herself with a perfume atomizer, rushes towards the camera and bites, fans herself with a scarlet fan, prays with an oversized black and gold crucifix and sings – wearing a black latex cape – from the back seat of a moving convertible.
This montage comes from the documentary mijawhich will premiere on Disney+ on Friday, but the footage is borrowed from the Musical clip for one of Haupt’s first songs, “3am”, which she wrote when she was 17. Since then, she has self-released two EPs (1973 and The Mezcla: illusionboth in 2020 and steeped in R&B and soul) and an assortment of singles.
“Wanna take me out/in your little car,” Haupt sings in Spanglish in the chorus. “En medio de la noche / we’re out until the sun goes down.”
mija tells the story of Doris Munoz, a then music manager in her mid-twenties who found success managing indie musician Cuco. When Covid hits, however, Muñoz and Cuco stop working together and Muñoz begins scouting for his next artist. Enter Haupt. The two women are the first American-born members of their undocumented Mexican families.
Isabel Castro, creator and director of mija, is herself a Mexican immigrant. As a filmmaker and multimedia journalist, Castro has worked closely with immigration and all the weighty issues it entails – from the struggle to prove that humanitarian aid is not a crime with USA vs. Scott to a family’s struggle to reunite after being split up by immigration authorities Darlin. With mijaCastro strove to show joy and radical imagination: what kind of future could immigrant children create for themselves and their families, even and especially in the world of music?
Doris Muñoz and Jacks Haupt were lying on a multicolored blanket in the grass.
Courtesy of Disney
A wrestler is looking for his big break
Haupt, 22, is from the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas, Texas, where lowriders run down Jefferson Boulevard, drivers wearing oversized Dallas Cowboys jerseys with their sunglasses rolled back. Her music is inspired by the Texas Chicano community, the divine feminine, and influences ranging from Radiohead’s Amy Winehouse and Thom Yorke to Latin soul musician Joe Bataan and English electronic band Sneaker Pimps. It was at Oak Cliff that the musician wrote “3am”, a song released the day after she graduated from high school.
“3am” – inspired by both his high school crush and his grandparents’ love affair – marked a turning point for Haupt: it was the first song that made him feel like an artist. Back then, she relied on her phone to make music, using apps like GarageBand and BandLab.
“It’s such a memorable moment for me, because it was a difficult process at the very beginning,” Haupt said in a recent phone call. “I was posting stuff on SoundCloud, doing stuff with my phone, because I couldn’t afford to have studio sessions at all.”
Midway through the documentary, Haupt boards a plane for the first time to fly from Dallas to Los Angeles, meet Muñoz, and work at the Cosmica Artists + Records recording studio in Boyle Heights.
“Everything you ever heard, she recorded on her iPhone,” Muñoz told Gil Gastelum, CEO and founder of the record label. “That’s amazing,” Gastelum replies, turning to Haupt. “There’s a reason we’re all here, excited to meet you: because we believe in what you’re doing.”
Perhaps Haupt’s biggest believer is his maternal grandfather, who once dreamed of becoming a musician himself. He would babysit Haupt, his siblings and cousins growing up, and play them the ’60s and ’70s rock and Chicano soul that inspired Haupt’s earlier music.
“I was 14, playing keyboards at my aunt’s house,” Haupt says. “And he was like, ‘I bought you this keyboard. I hope you continue what you’re doing. And in Spanish he would be like, ‘Ganas scalestinks.’”
A filmmaker finds the perfect subjects
Castro came across Haupt by pure chance. Castro comes from a television production background, where the work done behind the scenes can be misunderstood or invisible, much like the job of a music director. So she naturally turned to Muñoz, whom she met in a California Sunday Article about the rise of Cuco – as a subject.
Doris Muñoz dances in a blue-lit crowd at a concert in New York.
Courtesy of Disney
Through Muñoz, she met Haupt. Castro saw in Haupt an innate ability to co-exist with the camera, a skill learned from documenting her own life on film and on social media and through the music videos she made with her friends.
“I think what was so beautiful about Jacks – and I think that’s also reflected in his music –,” Castro says, “is that there’s really an inherent ability to speak in a very vulnerable way. .”
In his work as a journalist, Castro has covered countless immigration stories on both sides of the US-Mexico border. Sometimes, she says, she feels rage around US immigration policy. In every story she works on, she tries to understand the trauma surrounding those stories and show the world how it affects people on a human level.
“I think the real trauma and grief from those experiences is there as well, but on a day-to-day basis, some of those other emotions are just as present — and sometimes more present,” Castro says. “I feel like the real hurt and the pain, we carry it with us, but sometimes it’s actually harder to access it.”
Another immigrant story
With mija, Castro craved an approach that didn’t focus exclusively on trauma, but rather on a nuanced mix of emotions like guilt, resentment, and joy. In the first scene of the documentary, Muñoz works with Cuco at an event in Central Park called Selena for Sanctuarya Selena-themed outdoor concert in support of immigration rights.
“In this movie, it was really intentional to include joy, humor,” Castro said. “When you’re in a crowd, listening to Selena covers, listening to Cuco sing in Spanish, there’s just such a sense of pride and joy and hope that I wanted to live in too.”
Near the end of the film, Muñoz and Haupt drive together at midnight in Los Angeles in a convertible – Muñoz in the driver’s seat, Haupt gazing around in wonder from the backseat. Castro meddles with the space between journalism and art, which is deeply apparent here: it feels like a dream sequence.
“They say you can’t dream of a new face,” says Muñoz. The faces that appear while you sleep are the ones you’ve seen before.
“When you’ve never seen someone like you succeed, it seems impossible,” she continues. “Jacks is a reminder that all tenemos el derecho de brillar, de sonar.”
“Jacks reminds us that we all have the right to shine, to dream.”
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