Carmel International Film Festival to screen film professor’s new documentary

Jennifer Maytorena Taylor’s new film ‘Daisy & Max’ premieres on the Al Jazeera America television channel Oct. 25

poster for film Daisy and Max
Max holds baby Sarah
Max holds baby Sarah
Jennifer Maytorena Taylor, UC Santa Cruz Assistant Professor of Film and Dgital Media
Jennifer Maytorena Taylor, UC Santa Cruz Assistant Professor of Film and Dgital Media

Daisy and Max is not the film I had planned to make,” says UC Santa Cruz assistant professor of film and digital media Jennifer Maytorena Taylor.

Taylor had originally chosen Max, a former gang member, and Daisy, a victim of gang violence, to be model characters for a new documentary film about a successful violence intervention program.

As a teenager, Daisy had watched her older sister bleed to death in the driveway of her family’s house after being shot by a gang member. She had gone on to become a social worker, now studying for a doctorate in counseling,

Max was in and out of prison before he turned his life around working for the City of Los Angeles’s pioneering gang intervention program.

They had a new baby named Sarah, but agreed to be filmed over the summer to document how the couple balanced their lives while working in an often dangerous and emotionally demanding field.

But four days before they were set to begin filming, things changed.

“Daisy texted me that our project was off,” says Taylor. “The FBI had just raided their house in the middle of the night, broken their door in, arrested Max on three-year-old minor drug charges—and then called the county social workers to take Sarah (their new baby) into what they called ‘protective custody’.”

Max suddenly disappeared into the federal prison system, and Daisy was left to fight to save her family.

Despite the extraordinary turn of events, they did begin filming a few days later after all.

The result is an hour-long documentary, filmed on location in South Los Angeles. Descibed by the Village Voice as “urgent and illuminating, humane and infuriating,” it features the voice of acclaimed Chicano actor Jesse Borrego (Mi Vida Locas, La Mission, American Crime) reading from Max’s letters.

Daisy & Max will screen at the Carmel International Film Festival, which runs October 21-25, and will also debut on the Al Jazeera America television channel on Sunday, Oct. 25.

The film is also set to screen at a number of other upcoming festivals, including the ALBA Human Rights Film Festival in New York City, and the Saint Louis International Film Festival.

Taylor joined the Film and Digital Media Department at UC Santa Cruz in 2014. She is an award-winning documentary producer and director of character-based, documentary films--often focusing on youth, Latinos, and life in communities affected by poverty, surveillance, the correctional system, and state-sponsored violence.

Her credits include the award-winning films New Muslim Cool, Special Circumstances, Paulina, Home Front, Immigration Calculations; Ramadan Primetime; and the Street Knowledge 2 College series for PBS, Latino Public Broadcasting and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s American Graduate Initiative.   

WATCH TRAILER for Daisy and Max