Sweet 15

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Sweet 15
Sweet 15 (1990).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Victoria Hochberg
Produced by Richard Soto
Sharon Weil
Written by Sharon Weil
Screenplay by Sharon Weil
Starring Karla Montana
Panchito Gómez
Jerry Stiller
Tony Plana
Music by Michael Aarvold
Cinematography Hal Trussell
Distributed by Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)
Release date
  • January 15, 1990 (1990-01-15)
Running time
120 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget Unknown

Sweet 15 is a 1990 American made-for-television family drama film about a fourteen-year-old girl whose dreams of having a perfect quinceanera are suddenly halted when she realizes that her family is residing in the United States illegally.

A WonderWorks film, it is commonly shown in Spanish classes all over the country to teach about Mexican culture.


Marta de la Cruz is the daughter of two hardworking Mexican immigrants. She and her two siblings were born in the United States and are living in Los Angeles. They are a working-class family, and their hardworking father, Samuel, is the operations manager of a steel mill that makes chain link fences. He has been working hard for much of his life, and the work finally paid off when they became legal citizens. They also have a close relationship with their next-door neighbor Jorge, who is struggling to find work because he has no papers. Marta is seen as spoiled, immature, and somewhat naive, but she wants to have an amazing quinceanera, as her friends are not having one. Her parents tell her that she may have to postpone it, because of financial problems, when in reality, they are not legal citizens, and they need to save money in case Samuel's boss, Mr. Waterman (Jerry Stiller) finds out and he is left jobless. Marta does not understand the situation and is very angry and upset. Her jealousy only increases when she is forced to get a job in their church to volunteer in the community.

She continues to plan, however, determined to have her "quince". Also, her friends are busy hitting on Gabi's handsome, distant cousin Ramón from New York City who just arrived in California. They are pressuring Marta to dance with him at her quince, but she is too shy, and Ramon is struggling with his inability to read or write. Samuel knows that he has earned his citizenship, as he has worked hard and respected the laws and customs of America for over a decade, but as he has no papers, there is no way that anybody can know that. While working at the church one day, Marta discovers that Samuel is an illegal, and begins getting very worried and touchy about the subject. The same day, despite Samuel's warnings, Jorge gets a job at a warehouse that has a reputation for deporting illegal employees on pay day.

Samuel does not want Marta dating Ramón, but she goes behind his back and enlists him for help in getting all of Samuel's previous employer's signatures, so he can get his papers. Meanwhile, Jorge is deported to Mexico when he fails to present his papers. Also, at Samuel's plant, more and more employees are being fired or deported, and Samuel fears he may be next, so he is hard at work trying to find a second job, one that does not require papers. Meanwhile, Marta gets all but one signature, and goes to an auto salvage yard for the last one, but the manager is rude and stubbornly refuses to sign the papers. Marta is persistent, and the manager has a change of heart and manages to sign the papers. Also, Ramón learns how to read and surprises Marta with it.

She presents her father with his signatures, and he sends them in for their papers. Soon after, he is given his temporary papers to show at his job, as it will be a while before their permanent papers arrive. Samuel thanks his daughter and they embrace. However, Marta is soon told that they found that she had been tampering with the files and she has to go inside. Expecting the worst, she discovers a surprise quince.



The film received positive reviews because of its realistic and non-biased depiction on the touchy subject of illegal immigration, but negative ones due to the acting. It has become somewhat of a hidden classic and is commonly shown in Spanish classes because of its clean, family-friendly depiction of Mexican culture.[1]


  1. ^ "Sweet 15". 1 January 2000 – via IMDb. 

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