Written and directed by: Danyeli Rodriguez Del Orbe
Assistant Director: Astrid Andujar
Director of Photography: Maria Marrone
Story Editor: Jessica Diaz-Hurtado
Produced by: No Matinees
Sound: Hansel Ureña Esposito
Imagine trying to cross a maritime border in order to reach a dream. An arduous unpredictable journey that looks somewhat insignificant on a world map, but as you look closer, you learn that the passage is a lot longer than most humans can bear; especially when the journey consists of surrendering yourself onto a fishing boat alongside dozens of other people with a similar goal. If the boat capsizes, nobody in the world would know where you are or what happened. You would be left to the mercy of an indifferent ocean. It’d be likely that the ocean waves would claim your life.
This gamble of an odyssey is one that many Dominicans have undertaken to reach the United States. If they’re unable to reach the mainland with a viable visa -and most aren’t able to acclaim such a fortunate turn of events- they then go the unthinkable route: they buy a ticket onto a boat (called “yolas” in the DR) and they venture out into open waters where there are thousands of ways that the journey could become a tragedy. The objective is to survive the 80-mile boat ride from the DR onto the beaches of Puerto Rico, and then making the jump to mainland U.S. of A.
In “Mejor Allá,” first time filmmaker Danyeli Rodriguez del Orbe, who is best known for her literary body of work, seeks to explore how a yola journey changed the trajectory of the lives of herself and her family. “This yola ride that my father took… it had implications for the rest of us,” said Danyeli. “So many people in the DR have taken this route, but we don’t hear about it. It’s as though it’s insignificant in the conversation around immigration.”
Formatted as a cinematic poem full of texture and spirit, “Mejor Allá” isn’t just a poetry offering; it’s a sincerely poignant piece that poses a complex set of questions: what do migrants give up when they dare to dream beyond? What do they leave behind? Was it worth it for them? Would they do it again? Danyeli’s film pulls at threads that weave a very nuanced and difficult answer.
is a Dominican writer and spoken word performer raised in The Bronx, New York. Her writing focuses on the nuances of Blackness, Latinidad, and migration. Danyeli has been featured by Bronx Museum of Arts, Museum of African Diaspora (MOAD), NPR Latino, People en Español, and Teen Vogue. She has performed at over forty universities and venues across the U.S. and the Caribbean. Her most recent contribution in Somewhere We Are Human, published by HarperCollins was released June 2022. Danyeli is also the author of the self-published collection of poems periodicos de ayer and the recipient of the Define American Artist Fellowship.