A film investigating California’s prison gangs, their devastating effect on Latino families, and the controversial war to stop their spread
Nuestra Familia, Our Family is a presentation by the Center for Investigative Reporting, KQED Public Television and Latino Public Broadcasting. The film is produced by Oriana Zill de Granados of CIR, co-produced by Julia Reynolds, and edited by David Ritsher, with reporting by George B. Sanchez, Dan Noyes and others on the CIR team.
More than four years of research and filming has resulted in a ground-breaking documentary that goes inside one of California’s most violent and organized gangs.
Nuestra Familia features interviews in prison and on the streets with family members and gang members opening up about their lives, painting a haunting picture rarely seen by the public.
The film tells the story of a father in a small California farm town who raised his son to be a gang member. It follows the father’s painful struggle as he turns his own life around but then sees his son become deeply involved with the Nuestra Familia (NF) prison gang — and unknowingly fall into the grip of an FBI informant.
Nuestra Familia also tells the hidden history of the Norteño street gang and its links to the prison-based NF, which, ironically, had similar roots to the migrant-rights movements of the 1960s in the fields of California.
Former NF members detail the rigidly organized structure of this prison gang and how its leaders are able to operate with impunity from the lockdown section of Pelican Bay, California’s highest security prison.
From there, NF leaders control the activities of thousands of Norteño gang members on the streets, and manage the systems for training recruits and collecting taxes from gang activity. This military-style organization keeps an eye on everything from who gets killed to how guns are distributed among street soldiers.
As young Latinos cycle in and out of juvenile hall and prison, they are literally nurtured into a life of commitment to the NF — a commitment that is enforced by blood.
The film contains never-before-seen scenes of the Nuestra Famillia in action, footage of an FBI gang informant as he appears to approve a murder, and exclusive interviews with the young triggerman in that crime.
Nuestra Familia brings home the sorrow of an entire community that has been devastated by the almost constant violence wrought by the NF on its once-quiet streets.
Ultimately, the film is a powerful chronicle of families determined to bring an end to the terror of gangs before the next generation repeats the mistakes of their fathers.