The documentary Mija showcases Oak Cliff musician Jacks Haupt, but it’s not your typical biopic about a performer on the rise or a marketing ploy to boost album sales.
Instead, the gritty film provides an intimate glimpse into the struggles of immigrant families to remain together and chase the American Dream. Both Haupt and Doris Munoz — a California artist/manager whose story becomes linked to Haupt as the film progresses — are the first American-born members of their immediate family.
While Haupt’s music career is poised for a breakthrough, you won’t hear much of it in the film. Instead, it follows the Chicana singer-songwriter and her boyfriend as they live out of their car and face questions from her protective parents about the viability of her career choice.
“I felt very vulnerable, knowing that side of my story is being put out there. But I’m glad people get to see it,” Haupt said. “Going through that episode, I had to learn a lot about myself and life in general. I’m more mature and see things in a different perspective. It’s made me very proud of who I am today. I’ve grown a lot.”
Haupt also will perform a set on Friday night at Wild Detectives.
Haupt’s music infuses a classic Chicana style with a mix of alternative rhythms, elements of R&B and soul, and relevant bilingual lyrics. She plans to release a new single and video this summer.
Haupt, 22, said her parents have become more supportive since initially questioning her artistic dreams and being protective over her mental health and the family’s financial stability.
“It takes patience, especially with parents who weren’t as privileged and just want you to keep your feet on the ground,” she said. “For those struggling with the same situation, just give them time. Trying to chase your dreams can be worth it.”
Castro originally wanted to pursue a film about Latino singer Cuco and the pressures he faced hailing from an immigrant family and pursuing pop stardom as a teenager. Munoz was his manager and faced similar obstacles. She eventually became the primary focus.
That was in 2019, but when the onset of the pandemic caused Cuco and Munoz to go their separate ways, it also forced Castro to shift the focus of her debut feature project.
“The music industry fell into a tailspin. This entire documentary that I had planned out around touring and live shows was pretty much impossible at that point,” said Castro, whose journalism background focuses on immigration. “[Doris] didn’t know where her career was headed. It was around this time that she was listening to Jacks’ music pretty much nonstop.”
Munoz and Castro connected with Haupt through social media and found a sisterhood through their parallel stories of ambition and family dependency. Along the way, Mija became an entirely new film.
“Jacks was just starting to blossom into an artist ready to expand outside of Texas,” Castro said. “She was interesting to me for the same reasons that Cuco initially was interesting to me. She was incorporating her Mexican American identity into her music, and her sound is really unique.”
After its festival run, the documentary will be released in theaters and on Disney+ later this year. Disney’s deal to acquire the film also includes the rights to develop scripted content for its FX cable network.
“It’s so inspiring to me. I think they’re so brave for opening up their lives and hearts for people to see,” Castro said. “They’re speaking to some universal truths and experiences that a lot of people connect with. I think it will resonate emotionally.”
Haupt said her experiences documented in the film taught her to be open-minded and grateful, especially toward her hometown.
“If I ever get to the top, I would love to always represent Dallas,” she said. “Oak Cliff is my home. That’s where I struggled and my family struggled. The community helps each other out and is so creative.”