Carl Hayden robotics documentary Underwater Dreams opens in Phoenix
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Carl Hayden robotics documentary Underwater Dreams opens in Phoenix

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  • Craig Pletenik/Phoenix Union High School District

Carl Hayden Teacher Fredi Lajvardi, Diserea Sanders, Student, Sergio Gorral, Student, Martin Carranza, Student And Isela Martinez, Student With Stinky In The Movie "Underwater Dreams." Photo Courtesy Of Richard E. Schultz/50 EGGS

The documentary, Underwater Dreams, that chronicles the Carl Hayden Robotics team’s improbable win over MIT and other colleges 10 years ago, and the STEM legacy it inspired at the school, debuts in Phoenix on Friday, July 18 at the AMC Arizona Center 24.

Show times for the 83-minute documentary are 10:15 a.m.; 12:30, 2:45; 3:10; 7:30 and 9:45 daily.

Carl Hayden robotics documentary Underwater Dreams opens in Phoenix UnderwaterDreamsInside

Carl Hayden teacher Fredi Lajvardi, Diserea Sanders, student, Sergio Gorral, student, Martin Carranza, student and Isela Martinez, student with Stinky in the movie “Underwater Dreams.” Photo courtesy of Richard E. Schultz/50 EGGS

The film, written and produced by Mary Mazzio of 50 Eggs Films and narrated by Michael Peña, features the four former students Cristian Arcega, Lorenzo Santillan, Luis Aranda and Oscar Vazquez, and coaches Fredi Lajvardi and Allan Cameron, who took their makeshift underwater robot “Stinky” to a competition in Santa Barbara.

The retelling of that story 10 years later shows the lasting impact that feat had on the hopes and dreams of others who followed. It not only spawned an internationally-renowned robotics team at Hayden, but sent scores of students to universities to study science, technology and engineering, and empowered others to advocate for the DREAM Act.

The film also follows the four young men, who have gone off in different career directions, to Boston to meet the MIT students they defeated a decade ago. The disparities between the two teams are poignant, given the emotional twists and turns of the underdog Falcons in the aftermath of their glorious accomplishment.

Underwater Dreams, which has been shown in special screenings this year for various organizations including the Center for American Progress, the Clinton Global Initiative, the Aspen Idea Festival and the US Chamber of Commerce, premiered in New York City and Los Angeles, July 11. A shortened version will also air on Telemundo and MSNBC beginning July 20.

Lajvardi, who attended a premiere in New York City July 11, will be at the 7:30 p.m. showing Friday with some former and current team members and Mary Mazzio, the writer and producer of Underwater Dreams. Lajvardi said he can’t believe the momentum of the film.

“I don’t think anyone realized it would take off like this.” Lajvardi said. “This film is being wonderfully received and is bringing both sides of the immigration debate together to talk about DREAMers. The film will run for at least a week, and I hope a lot of people come out to see it, so it can stay in the theatre longer.”

Mazzio, who prides herself on creating films that have social impact, understands the power of this story.

“This is a story about grit, resiliency, inspiration and finding talent in places that you might not expect. These kids are extraordinary, but they are representative of hundreds of thousands of similarly situated kids capable of great things,” Mazzio said in a radio interview. “If you go to Carl Hayden today, there are kids saying I want to go to college and study engineering. They are throwing around engineering terms like cookies.”

The documentary precedes a motion picture about the Carl Hayden Robotics, called Spare Parts, starring George Lopez, Jamie Lee Curtis and Marisa Tomei, that will be released in January. Its original title was La Vida Robot, after the Wired Magazine article of the same name.

The awards-worthy “Underwater Dreams” is by turns rousing and heartbreaking, and organically touches on important social issues as it examines the wide-ranging impact of that upstart team’s efforts. –Michael Ordona, San Francisco Chronicle

As captivating as it is important, Mary Mazzio’s seemingly modest tract about immigration achievement grabs you by the heart, as it grows and grows into something big and vital… it’s a genuine Kleenex-requiring tearjerker by the end. –David Noh, Film Journal International

Comments by student advisors, parents of the main Carl Hayden alumni, the high school’s more recent robotics students and immigration activists, along with narration by actor Michael Peña (“Cesar Chavez”) rounds out this moving and insightful piece. –Gary Goldstein, LA Times

For more information, please contact Craig Pletenik at (602) 764-1530.