Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: Revisiting Loira Limbal

Afro-Dominican Filmmaker
Headshot of a woman.

Photo by Erin Patrice O’Brien

Music Credit: “NY”  written and performed by Kosta T, from the cd  Soul Sand, Used courtesy of the Free Music Archive.

Jo Reed:  From the National Endowment for the Arts, This is Art Works, I’m Josephine Reed.

Today, we’re celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month by re-visiting my 2020 interview with Loira Limbal an Afro-Dominican filmmaker who directed and produced the extraordinary documentary—Through the NightThrough the Night is an intimate look at one 24 hour day care center in New Rochelle, the couple who runs the center and the mothers and children who need it.  An official selection at the many festivals, including the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival and AFI DOCS, Through the Night was seen nationally on the PBS program POV which had signed on as early co-producers. The film examines issues that have only grown in urgency over the past couple of years and remains one of the films I recommend most often.

(excerpt from film)

Jo Reed:  You just heard Deloris Hogan or known to all as Nunu in an excerpt from Through the Night; she and her husband Patrick run Dee’s Tots the 24 hour day care center at the heart of the film.  In Through the Night, Limbal gives us a picture of two of the many mothers forced to use extended day care because of their endlessly long work hours, their sorrow at leaving their children for long periods of time, and their complete reliance on and trust in Nunu and Patrick to care lovingly for their kids.  And that trust is well-founded.  Nunu and Patrick teach, feed, guide, and love their house full of children. And they are a safety net for these mothers—primarily women of color—who work multiple jobs or jobs outside the conventional 9-5 workday in order to put food on the table and keep their families afloat. Through the Night is a verité documentary that explores the personal cost of our modern economy for working mothers and for the caretakers of their children.

Loira Limbal is a mother of two and Senior Vice President of Programs at Firelight Media as well as producer and director of Through the Night.  I wanted to know what about this story ignited her passion.

Loira Limbal:  I myself am a single working mother, and am a part of a few different communities of mothers in both virtual and real world spaces. And someone posted an article that looked at the daycare that is featured in "Through the Night," which is Nunu and Patrick's daycare. And the headline of the article was something like "The Rise of Extreme Childcare." And so the focus was looking at the fact that we now need 24-hour daycare centers because so many folks in the U.S. work multiple jobs, and if they don't work multiple jobs, they work really sort of non-standard or irregular hours. And that is increasing so that the idea that people's-- working people are working from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the U.S. is a notion that is actually really outdated and not the reality for most people. And so then what does that mean for people's children and who's caring for them? And so that was what the article was sort of talking about and looking at, and for me what sparked the idea of a documentary is that my own mother raised myself and my three younger sisters-- I'm the oldest of four children--  working the night shift as a home health aid worker, and so she worked a job that was very kind of taxing and demanding, not well-paid, did not have sort of decent benefits, and it just reminded me reading through the article, the stories and the kind of anecdotes that people shared in the article, literally brought me back to my childhood and my mother's own experience of trying to juggle providing for us financially while also providing for us emotionally and physically, and just how difficult that was. And so for me, it was like, "This is my childhood. This is my mother's experience." There are aspects that I relate to, although my circumstances are different today than my mother's were. But these kinds of stories are really invisible in our mainstream media and actually they're also invisible in both our conversations about labor and the economy in the U.S., as well as conversations about women's issues. There's this way in which this reality that is shared by so many, particularly women of color, and working class women, just kind of gets missed by all of the conversations that should be taking these stories into consideration, and so I-- that prompted me to say, "I want to spend the next couple of years of my life trying to make a film about this."

Jo Reed:  And how did you introduce yourself to Nunu and Patrick?

Loira Limbal:  That's actually a really interesting story. So I read the article. I started dreaming about a film automatically. I actually knew the photographer that worked on the article, and asked if she would make an introduction? And she said, "No, I don't feel comfortable doing that. The folks in the film are a little bit hesitant with us while we were doing the film. I don't think that they would be open to a documentary. And so I don't really feel comfortable trying to make that kind of connection." And so I said, "Okay," and I didn't do anything. I didn't do anything for another two years, except for think about this film and this story and these stories day and night, literally. But I took this person's "No" for an answer, essentially. Said, "Well, I tried. Oh, well." But I couldn't stop thinking about it, and I actually did try to contact other daycare centers. At the time, my own children were very young and in daycare themselves, and so I asked my provider if she knew any other providers that were providing-- that's a lot of providing <laughs>-- that were offering non-standard hours or overnight care. And my daycare provider did connect with others, and I sort of talked to folks, and still was like, "That's not quite what I'm looking for. It's not the right fit. This is not what sort of I felt or what I was looking for when I read about Nunu's daycare." So finally about two years later I just cold-called the daycare, and got Nunu on the phone, and I introduced myself. I said this is who I am, this is what I do, and this is what I would like propose to you, "Would you take a meeting with me?" And she said, "Okay, okay. Well, let me talk to my husband, Patrick, and I'll get back to you." And she got back to me a few days later, about four days later, and asked me to come up to visit and meet in person, and I did, and I think we really sort of connected. You know, later, in recounting and reflecting on our journey together over the last four-and-a-half years or so, she told me, you know, "I met you. I heard you speak. You shared some of your story. I looked into your eyes and I could tell who you were. You know, and so I felt comfortable with you. I knew that we would be respected and cared for, and so that's why I agreed." You know, because I always sort of kept asking along the way, like, "You sure? And why are you doing this?" And because it's a big ask, you know, right? Like asking folks to open up their lives, their homes to complete strangers, and even more so to cameras.

Jo Reed:  Of course, you have to get permission from parents whose children were there.

Loira Limbal:  Oh, yes, of course!

Jo Reed:  How did you approach that?

Loira Limbal:  We came up, introduced ourselves, spoke to everyone. Nunu and Patrick did a lot of also speaking to parents and explaining and permission slips. And I also-- you know, my approach to consent when working with protagonists and film participants, is I think of consent as something that needs to be constantly revisited. It's an ongoing process. So I don't assume that because someone said, "Yes," and signed a form today, that a year from now the person feels exactly the same. You know, and with documentary films you are typically in people's lives for a few years. And, you know, things change, right? And people change. And sometimes people agree, and then they see what it actually all entails and they change their minds! And I think it's important to have a really kind of open and transparent exchange with protagonists. And I think of it as like the difference between consent versus informed consent. Right? Like wanting to make sure that people really truly understand what they're getting into, and that they feel like they have agency in making that choice, or saying, "No, I actually, I'm not interested anymore."

Jo Reed:  Can you tell us just a little bit about Nunu and Patrick, who they are as people?

Loira Limbal:  Yes, so I will-- this is a joke that I often say, is that I think of Nunu as the Oracle in "The Matrix." She is that like all-knowing, all-seeing, you know, older black woman, who is just something beyond mortal. I don't think of Nunu as a mere mortal. <laughs> And I say that, because Nunu is someone for whom caring for children really is a calling. And I think of her as someone who is truly walking in her purpose on this earth, so she's been caring for children since she was a child herself, and in looking after younger cousins and siblings and things like that. And then began to care for other people's children outside of her family, as a teenager. And then as an adult was in a situation where she was already married to her husband, Patrick. And a friend of his, had a girlfriend, the  partner, had had a really horrific car accident and needed to be hospitalized for several weeks, and they basically asked Nunu if she would watch their infant, because the friend needed to go back to work, the mother was in the hospital, and Nunu at the time was at home caring for her own children, she was a stay-at-home mom. Patrick had an outside job. And after the mother came out of the hospital, and she sort of recovered and went back to work, she came back to Nunu and said, "Nunu, would you care for my child while I go back to work, and I'll pay you," and this sort of thing. And so it began in this very informal way. But then sort of that mother told another mother, and another mother told another mother. And so she began kind of caring for people's children, and being paid, but in an informal way. And then around the same time Patrick got laid off from a job that he'd been working at for many, many years. And so you know, she said, "Listen, this is something that I would like to grow, we can make this a family business. You know, I'd love for you to be my partner in this." And it was a way for them to both be home. You know, be home for their children, but also to provide, not only a service, but really like-- I think of them as a kind of a community safety net for the families that they care for.

Jo Reed:  Yeah, because I think it's so clear that Patrick, and particularly, Nunu, they don't only take care of the children, they really are taking care of these mothers as well.

Loira Limbal:  Oh, yes, oh, yes. You know, I've seen Nunu be in situations where she's going down to a school to help a parent advocate for the child. If there's a conflict with a teacher, or you know, something, and the parent needs some support in that situation, like Nunu will go down with the parent's school, you know, like as a family member would. The emotional support. The sort of the flexibility, the customization of how they meet parents' needs. Because again, people are working. You know, a lot of folks that work, you know, low-wage jobs, their schedules get determined by computers and algorithms. And these computers and algorithms don't care that you have a three-year-old at home, or that you have a 12-year-old at home, right? And so you'll get some random shift and you have very few rights! And again, if you are a single parent, or a sole provider, you have to work. There is no one else's income to fall back on. So then you're put into these kind of impossible situations. And oftentimes the sorts of things that the state sort of might officially offer for parents does not fully account for the norms and the complexity of what it is to be a working parent in the United States today, given the way that labor and the economy is structured. And so here come Nunu and Patrick, who are a part of this community. They're rooted here. So these people are not clients, they're their neighbors that become their family, right? And so they understand first-hand what it means, what it looks like and what is needed. And then they work really hard to meet those needs. And so that's why I think of them as much more than a daycare center. They're really a community safety net.

Jo Reed:  Yeah, with many children spending the night. And you hone in on two mothers, Shanona Tate, who's a nurse, so obviously, she's working crazy hours. And then, Marisol Valencia, who works three different part-time jobs.

Loira Limbal:  Yes, yes. Yes, yes. And so we honed in on them, partially because these were folks that Nunu recommended, you know, that we speak to, because she thought that they were in many ways very emblematic of the kinds of things that-- the kinds of challenges that mothers are up against. And I love also that they represent a spectrum, right? So Marisol is working three low-wage, part-time jobs, mostly because none of her employers, when we meet her, none of her employers were willing to give her full-time hours, because they did not want to pay for health insurance and other benefits. So they would keep her just below kind of the limit, right, of where you would have to provide those kinds of benefits. And so then for her, that put her in a position where she had to patch together multiple jobs in order to bring in enough income to cover all of the family's expenses? And so that's Marisol, on the one hand. Then you have Shanona on the other hand, who is a pediatric ER nurse. She is a professional working woman. She's a nurse, right? She's not working a low-wage job. Yet, there's a sense that-- she works the night shift-- and it's interesting, too, because she works the nightshift caring for other people's children. She works in the pediatric ER. So this is a woman who you come to when your in distress, right? And this is a person that provides care and comfort, and yet, nurses and others that work nightshifts, regardless of what kind of work it is and where they fall on the sort of income spectrum, the way that things work in the United States, it's like, "That's your issue to figure out. You know, you figure out childcare." Like there is no sort of acknowledgement via the State or the employer for just how difficult that is, right? To find care overnight, if you do not live somewhere where you have family who can help you with that. You know, and you sort of-- you make enough for one thing, but then you don't make enough to necessarily hire a nanny to be home with your children 12 or 14 hours, right, overnight. And so again, there's kind of like no acknowledgement of this reality. And then because we don't acknowledge it, there's no conversation, and because there's no conversation, there are no solutions, right? It's that sort of saying of, "You can't fix that which you cannot face." And I think that Marisol and Shanona are really truly emblematic of just how broken this all is, right? And then you sort of add on top of that, the fact that all three of them, or all four of them, Nunu, Patrick, Shanona and Marisol are in situations where they are working so much! Where sleep has become essentially a luxury. You know, no one in this film is getting six to eight hours of sleep a night,  right, because they're just working around the clock, whether you're the childcare provider that's taking care of these folks'  children, or you're the worker, or you know, whatever, and that's really it's like, "Okay, something is really, really wrong here where we, you know, in the year 2020 sleep is a luxury that only a select few are entitled to. You know?"

Jo Reed:  Yeah, everybody in this film puts the needs of others above their own.

Loira Limbal:  Yes.

Jo Reed:  And Nunu, too, but especially mothers in such an impossible situation that they have to make work, and you know, I was both saddened and angered by the choices that these mothers had to make, and yet at the same time, I'm thinking, "Oh, my god! They are so lucky to have Nunu to look after the kids!" You know, so it breaks your heart that they're not with their kids, and it's breaking their heart that they're not with their kids, but that they know their children are with someone who loves them.

Loira Limbal:  Yes, yes, certainly. And I think that is precisely the conundrum and part of what we wanted to convey. And also to say, you know, Nunu is one example of many. There are many Nunus and many black and Latinx low-income and working class communities across the country. And so Nunu, again, is one of many, many types of folks. And that this is the way that our communities have figured out how to take care of each other and to survive in the face of really impossible odds that we have always been up against, you know, in the U.S. when you sort of stack race and class and gender together, you know, there's a lot of challenges, and a lot of things that are stacked against us, and yet, somehow, some way, we insist in this project of caring for our children and loving each other and believing that we are worthy of care and of nurturing and then figuring out how to provide that for each other ourselves. I think it's an example of the kind of interdependence and ingenuity that exists in communities of color across the country. That's true, and it's also true that it's all very precarious. And it should not be the case. You know, and so I do hope that we can both sort of celebrate this community and ingenuity and the beauty and the interdependence while also be really angered at the state of affairs in this nation, because it is unfair to place that burden and that responsibility of being a safety net on one couple. Right? That is a social responsibility. That is a collective responsibility. That should not at all on Nunu and Patrick, so much so that, you know, in the film we see that it does take a really high toll on Nunu and her own health, right? And so this all comes at a price, and we're constantly asking certain people in our society to sacrifice themselves for the well-being of others and this is particularly true in this COVID-19 moment, which it's also just super ironic to me that all three of the kind of main protagonists of the film are essential worker.

Jo Reed:  Right.

Loira Limbal:  You know, and they have worked this whole time, all three of them. Nunu never closed her doors. Marisol was working as a supermarket supplier, and has been working six days a week, and Shanona as a nurse and never stopped working, right? And so the ways in which we ask these people in particular communities and women of color to sacrifice themselves, and then we give so little in return.

Jo Reed:  Well, that was-- you know, it leaves you wondering who cares for whom? Who gets to be Nunu for these moms, and who gets to be Nunu for Nunu?

Loira Limbal:  Right, right.

Jo Reed:  I want to talk a little bit about filming. Did you have a regular schedule? Was it every day? How long did it take for the kids to get used to you and the camera?

Loira Limbal:  Mm hm. So we did not have an everyday schedule, and we actually approached production from a place of wanting to be really economical in how much we shot. One, because I was aware the fact that in an environment like this, coming in, you know, with cameras and the like, is-- you have a huge footprint, you know, and it is, again, like a big ask and it can be an intrusion. And so I wanted to be as conscious and sort of as economical about that as possible. That, on the one hand. The other reason for it was that, I myself, again, I work a full-time job. I have two children. I tried to convince myself that there was no way that I had any business in trying to make another film at this point in my life, given my children's ages, and my own sort of circumstances, but again, I couldn't help myself, and I tried to dissuade myself as best I could, and I did not succeed in that, and so you know, I went against all better judgment, you know, and embarked on this journey. And so because of that I also realize like to make films as a single parent who is a sole provider, with a full-time job on the side. It could not look like it looks for other filmmakers. I had to figure out some mode of production that could work for a single working mom. Right? And so part of that was an economy of time, because time is perhaps the thing that is scarcest in my life. Which is also not lost on me that that is true in many ways for everyone in the film as well. You know, going back to this question of sleep and rest. You know, that time, you know, is such a scarcity when you don't have kind of the proper supports in place to pursue your full potential as a human being, right? Or to pursue all of your passions. And so for those two reasons I chose days that I knew would be particularly illuminating in the lives of working families. So, for example, we shot on the first day of school, because the first day of school is already really hectic! And all sorts of things happen and fall apart and it's just like that shows you what it is, you know, to juggle all these different things. We also shot on holidays, because I thought, again, it could-- days that could provide a really sort of rare window into what it looks like, right? What family life looks like, and these sort of special days where people are normally doing very intimate things with their family members. And you see some of that in the film. And then obviously, we wanted to just get the rhythm of the daycare, and so you know, we had some days where we were focused on getting the kind of early morning, first part of the day routine, which is more the domain of the little ones versus the afternoon through the evening, which is more of the children that are already in school, but come for after school care, or overnight care. To just kind of get all the cycles and the rhythms and to see all that goes into it and to also be able to see the depth of the relationships, right, between the children, between the families, between Nunu and Patrick, you know, and everyone in this universe. So but yeah, we were actually really, really economical and did not shoot that many days for-- you know, in comparison to what people typically film when they're making verite films. We kept it really tight.

Jo Reed:  And speaking of it being a verite film, you made the decision not to have talking heads of experts in childcare, etcetera, etcetera. But really to have it as a verite film, to allow these four people to tell their own stories, what went into that decision?

Loira Limbal:  Well, you know, so for me, I think one of the things that-- and you know, in my earlier point of saying how these kind of national conversations that we have about some of these issues miss the reality that a lot of people actually live on the ground. For me, that was the point, right? And so the experts are the people on the ground. And who best, right, to not only sort of signify for us what this world looks like, but then to also reflect on it and share their feelings and their analysis on it. You know, that, to me, was much more of an interesting proposition than having someone come in and provide statistics. And I also think the other huge piece of why I wanted to make it a verite film is because I was thinking of who I was making the film for. So I was thinking about audience in the sense of thinking about my own mother and the fact that at 66 years of age, she had never seen a film that was truly a reflection of her experience. You know, again, these stories are missing in our mainstream. And so I was thinking of my mother. I was thinking of myself. My friends. People in my neighborhood. And so I was thinking about like, "Well, what is it that we need to see of ourselves that we've been starved of?" And I think oftentimes films about low-income and working class communities of color, are a lot about sort of the violence, or the spectacle of violence, right, or these kind of huge crises or huge tragedies. And while there's certainly a lot of injustice that you come to observe in this film, and sorrow and challenges and things like that, you know, my goal was to just kind of portray our every day, and the way that I see our every day as a member of this community, because even though we are up against these colossal endemic social challenges. I felt like I needed to see us living! Right? Like we need to see examples of our everyday lives somewhere to have that life affirmed! To see our children being loved, nurtured. To see them being safe! You know, when we do know that we are moving through a world where we are not safe in so many different instances. And so again, that's why for me it was really important that the film be verite and that it felt intimate. You know? Because I was making it for us, I was making it for ourselves.

Jo Reed:  How did you come to filmmaking? How'd you get into it?

Loira Limbal:  So I did not go to film school. I came into filmmaking in a very roundabout way. Mostly because a story found me that I decided I really wanted to tell. I lived in Brazil. I did a study abroad in Brazil my junior year in college. And when I got to Brazil, I found this like amazing and vibrant community of hip-hop artists and activists, and my mind was completely blown because as someone that's from New York, from the Bronx, who has-- who was very much part of the hip-hop generation, it was just so amazing to see this kind of reflection of myself again <laughs>-- to talk about seeing yourself. There's a reflection of myself across the ocean, you know, in this completely different context, and I thought, "Well, you know, we need to see that back home! This needs to be documented, this needs to be shared." And so I started informally documenting that, and then along the way, I met someone else who is from Chile, who had been also documenting the hip-hop scene in Cuba, and in Chile. And so then we decided-- we had some friends in common that were like, "Oh, you two need to connect," and we did. And we decided to make a film together. And so we ended up making our first film, "Estilo Hip Hop," this was back in 2008, through this process of essentially wanting to document this culture and these communities that we loved, you know, in different parts of Latin America, and to sort of create that kind of record of like, "This exists," and wanting to share it with others who could see their own experiences reflected back to them through that. So that's how I got into it, and then once-- you know, once I-- we were working on that film, I realized, "Oh, yeah, this is it. This is what I want to do." But filmmaking is not a very sustainable career path. <laughter> And towards the end of-- as unfortunately, most of the arts are not, you know, particularly sustainable in the U.S., unfortunately.

Jo Reed:  Indeed they are not.

Loira Limbal:  Right, because they're undervalued. <laughs> But you know, towards the end of working on "Estilo Hip Hop" our first film, I had some health issues, and desperately needed health insurance, and so I began to look for kind of more formal, traditional work. And I was very lucky to stumble upon the organization that I still currently work at 11 years later, which is Firelight Media, which was founded by a filmmaker, Stanley Nelson, and his wife, Marcia Smith.

Jo Reed:  Oh!

Loira Limbal:  Yes. So that's my day job. So I was lucky in that I was able to land at a place where, although I was not directly making my own films, I was surrounded by non-fiction film and filmmakers and immersed in that world. And so I've been doing that work, and again, as I said, you know, this idea came along and even though I tried to talk myself out of it, I couldn't. And so here I am with my second feature film, and the bug, you know, the bug bit me stronger than ever, and I'm like, "I have to keep doing this, some way, somehow!"

Jo Reed:  Well, documentary is where journalism and art meet.

Loira Limbal:  Yes.

Jo Reed:  And I really would love to have you just talk a little bit about the possibilities that exist at that intersection of journalism and art.

Loira Limbal:  Mm hm, mm hm. Yeah, I think it's such a powerful intersection, right? Because you know, journalism obviously is critical and essential for us to understand our world and ourselves within it. But I would say art does the same thing. Right? Art helps us to understand how it feels to be a human being, right, in a society, in a civilization. These things, you know, both journalism and art help us make sense of our existence and our experiences as human beings. You know, I think it's no coincidence that as soon as quarantine began, the first thing people started to do was watch more films, read more books, listen to more music, virtual tours of museums, right? Like these very essential parts of humanity, and of being a human being, right? And so I think that that particular intersection is so powerful, precisely because of that. Right? There's a way in which, in journalism, particularly, if you're thinking about the news cycle, the news cycle is quick, it's fast. And so you get important information, but you get it in these kind of fast-paced ways. Whereas, documentary, again, like I said, you could be spending years-- which is also true for long-form, right, reporting or journalism. It's this deeper dive into stories and worlds and topics that sometimes are known, but not known at the depth, you know, that they should, or that sometimes are completely not known. You know, again, I think I've heard a million people tell me at this point, "Wow! Twenty-four hour daycare. I didn't know that that existed!" And so although I don't necessarily think of this film as an investigative kind of exposé, there is a way in which I am exposing something that exists that people have not heard about. <laughs> You know? That people have no clue exists. And so I think that there's such a unique power at that intersection, because of the ways that both journalism and art are critical essential parts of our experience.

Jo Reed:  I'm curious about "Through the Night" as an independent film, and how important the festival circuit is, but you know, this came out during COVID. Can you tell me about that experience for you?

Loira Limbal:  Yes, it's been very disorienting. The typical mechanisms, right, which are festivals, and in-person screenings, and people you know, being in one place and experiencing something together and having that energy and the conversation kind of build upon itself, then that leading to any number of other things, right, that then begins to build this buzz, and you feel like you're riding some sort of wave, or something. You don't have that in this COVID-19 moment. Audiences are watching films in their homes, on their computers, or on their phones, which also like is a little bit soul-crushing, as a filmmaker, because you put so much time and energy and resources into the cinematography, and you don't intend for these things to be seen solely on people's phones, you know? <laughter>

Jo Reed:  Yes.

Loira Limbal:  You hope that somebody gets to see it on a big screen, and can like really see all the detail that went into that shot composition. But you know, the most alienating part is that there isn't any live engagement with audiences and so it's alienating for the filmmaker, but I also think about the experience that audiences have with each other, right? Of watching a film in community and making connections and hearing one person be touched by something and share it during a Q&A that then prompts another person to think about something of their own experience. Right? Like that weaving of connection and of collective experience, that is not possible in this COVID-19 moment. And so it's very disorienting, and I would say slightly anti-climactic. But we are persisting and trying to do the best we can to get the film out and to get it to audiences, because, again, ironically, this is a story about essential workers, who we now have language for, right? This language of essential workers, this new language, and we are talking about these people quite a bit, and this film happens to be about that precise community. So it feels like it's more relevant than ever!

Jo Reed:  And finally, if you had to think about what you wanted audiences to take away from "Through the Night," what would that be?

Loira Limbal:  I would want audiences to get really angry about the fact that we have all collectively ended up in a place where we accept the fact that people could be working multiple jobs and still not be able to pay all of their bills. You know? That we've normalized these things that are very abnormal and cruel and unfair. And that ultimately as we're seeing now int his COVID-19 moment, affect everyone, right? But they have a disproportionate affect on the most vulnerable members of our communities, and I want us to collectively care about that. I want us to get mad about that, I want us to feel like it is our issue, it is our problem, because many of these people are caring for us in one way or the other, right? And so we need to care about them. You know, the film is about childcare, but the same could be said about the women, mostly black and immigrant women who are the people that provide elder care, or that provide sick care, right? Like there's this way in which the work, the labor of caregiving is very disrespected and undervalued in our society, and as we're seeing in this moment, without caregiving, nothing else works. Right? It all falls apart. And so this is everyone's problem. This is not something that any of us can afford to brush aside. And I would also say that I want audiences to look at Nunu, and the Nunus across the country, as leaders, as the leaders who can actually help us fix this very broken system, because they have the real world lived experienced of being the safety net that our society refuses to provide to working folks in this country. And so we need to look to them, the people who have been doing that work, should be the people at the forefront of the solution. But I would say those are probably top of mind things that I want audiences to leave the film with.

Jo Reed:  Yeah, I thought it spoke to me about how undervalued caregiving is to society at large, caregivers are, and yet at the same time, how fundamental caregiving is to us as human beings. <laughs>

Loira Limbal:  Exactly! That is the perfect way to put it.

Jo Reed:  It is such a pleasure to speak to you. I, as I said, I thought it was a truly remarkable film, and I think everyone should see it and think about it.

Loira Limbal:  Oh, thank you so much!

Jo Reed:  No, you're welcome, thank you. Thank you for making it.

Loira Limbal:  Oh, my pleasure. It's been a real gift to me as well.

Jo Reed:  I was revisiting my 2020 interview with Afro-Dominican filmmaker Loira Limbal—the producer and director of Through the Night. As I mentioned Through the Nightwas seen nationally on the PBS program POV.  You can find out more about the film at pbs.org/pov and search for Through the Night.  The film is also available on streaming platforms.

You've been listening to Art Works produced at the National Endowment for the Arts. Follow Art Works wherever you get your podcasts and leave us a rating on Apple it helps people to find us. And as always, we’d love to know what your thoughts about the podcast—send us an email at artworkspod@arts.gov. For the National Endowment for the Arts, I’m Josephine Reed. Thanks for listening.


Afro-Dominican filmmaker Loira Limbal’s documentary Through the Night is an intimate look at one home-based 24-hour daycare center in New Rochelle, the couple who runs the center, and the mothers and children who need it. The film, which was co-produced and presented by the PBS program POV, examines the impossible situations workers who are single parents—primarily women and most particularly women of color—can find themselves in a 24-hour-a -day economy. Limbal asks: “What happens when they don’t have family to pick up the slack?” And Through the Night goes a long way in answering that question. In this 2020 podcast, we talk about the social and political conditions that lead to the need for 24-hour daycare, the personal cost of our modern economy for working mothers and for the caretakers of their children. But we also talk about the film’s appreciation of the ways communities of color can answer these needs creatively and lovingly, even as the film decries a system that demands this adjustment to survive. Limbal also talks about the making of the film, the women she met during filming and her responsibilities to them, the overlap and differences between journalism and art, her determination to make Through the Night while raising two children and working full-time job, and bringing out a film during the pandemic. We’d love to know your thoughts—email us at artworkspod@arts.gov. And follow us on Apple Podcasts!