Film poster for "Building The American Dream" with construction worker in middle.
Film poster for "Building The American Dream" with construction worker in middle.
Follow immigrant families rising up to seek justice in a construction industry rife with exploitation.


Regular price $559.00


EMMY NOMINATED | GRAND JURY PRIZE - El Paso Film Festival STRONGLY RECOMMENDED - Video Librarian | RECOMMENDED - Educational Media Reviews Online

Labor Studies • Immigration Studies • Hispanic + Latino Studies • Economics • Worker Rights • Democracy • Social Issues • Politics + Policy

Date of Completion: 2019 | Run Time: 73 minutes​​ | Language: English & Spanish with English & Spanish subtitles | Captions: Yes | Includes: Transcript | Director: Chelsea Hernandez | Producers: Chelsea Hernandez & Marisol Medrano Montoya

Across Texas, an unstoppable construction boom drives urban sprawl and luxury high-rises. Its dirty secret: abuse of immigrant labor. BUILDING THE AMERICAN DREAM captures a turning point as a movement forms to fight widespread construction industry injustices. Grieving their son, a Mexican family campaigns for a life-and-death safety ordinance. A Salvadorian electrician couple owed thousands in back pay fights for their children’s future. A bereaved son battles to protect others from his family's preventable tragedy. A story of courage, resilience, and community, the film reveals shocking truths about the hardworking immigrants who build the American Dream, of which they are excluded.

Video Librarian
"The film is heartening in that it shows us how some people will fight back, including at least a few of the undocumented, who have reason to worry about speaking up. At the same time, we know that every ounce of progress made toward laborer protections is far outweighed by the unscrupulous. Building the American Dream will make a viewer angry, but let in a little daylight, too. Strongly recommended."

Educational Media Reviews Online | Michael Pasqualoni, Librarian for Public Communications, Syracuse University Libraries
"A moving portrait of dangerous labor conditions within the Texas construction trades ... Building the American Dream is recommended viewing for those interested in labor studies, immigration, community organizing, Texas politics, or the sociology of the workplace."

Roger Ebert 
“The hard-hitting documentary examines the recent boom in Texas’ economy and the toll it’s taken immigrant laborers.”

The Hollywood Reporter 
“An eye-opener about the abuse of workers whose immigration status makes them victims.”

Film Threat
“This film opens your eyes even more to exactly how unfair this country is to undocumented immigrants, particularly those of Latinx origins. Chelsea Hernandez tugs at our heartstrings and puts fuel to a fire of righteous anger.”

Texas Observer
“A striking mix of intimate drama and something approaching a how-to guide for community organizers…”

The Austin Chronicle
“The film explores the dual threats of wage theft and personal injury with a determination that doesn’t shy away from the political. Hernandez brings us into City Council meetings and charts the Trump administration’s plans to end DACA. While these issues often get elevated and then abstracted in media, Hernandez instead allows the families to lead the tone of the documentary.”

‘‘BUILDING THE AMERICAN DREAM reveals dark side of ‘Texas Miracle’’

Chelsea Hernandez is a Mexican-American filmmaker based in Austin, Texas. She directed and produced BUILDING THE AMERICAN DREAM. Named as one of Texas Monthly’s “10 Filmmakers on the Rise,” she is an 8-time Lone Star Emmy winning director, producer and editor. Chelsea has worked for ten years in the documentary television and film industry on such projects like PBS national broadcast special, Fixing the Future, hosted by David Brancaccio of NPR’s Marketplace and directed by Ellen Spiro (Body of War, Troop 1500) and national 6-part series Ancient Roads from Christ to Constantine directed by Hector Galan (Children of Giant, Chicano), United Tacos of America an 8 episode series on El Rey Network and most recently on That Animal Rescue Show a 10 episode series for CBS All Access. From 2013 to 2016 Chelsea was editor and co-producer of Arts In Context, a documentary series produced at KLRU-TV, Austin PBS and distributed by NETA, broadcast in 80% of the PBS markets nationwide. Beyond television work, Chelsea has directed and produced various documentary films including the 2018 SXSW Texas Short Jury Winner An Uncertain Future, a commissioned project with Field of Vision and Firelight Media. She made her feature directorial debut in 2019 with Building the American Dream which premiered at SXSW and recently had its national broadcast premiere on PBS.