De Novo tells the true story of a teenage boy from Guatemala who faced deportation after fleeing to the United States to escape gang life. The gang MS13 was the only family Edgar Chocoy had ever known, but he dreamed of a better life. At 14, he fled Guatemala City and traveled over 3,000 miles across the borders of three countries in search of his mother, who left him when he was a baby to find work in the United States. Detained by the Department of Homeland Security, he pleaded with a Colorado judge not to deport him to Guatemala, where the gang he left had sentenced him to death.
This documentary play is crafted entirely from immigration court transcripts, letters, and extensive interviews conducted by Houses on the Moon company members in Los Angeles, Colorado, and Arizona at Southwest Key, the largest facility for detained immigrant minors in the United States. De Novo is augmented with projected images from Donna DeCesare, an award-winning photojournalist who is widely known for her groundbreaking coverage of the spread of Los Angeles gangs in Central America.
De Novo provides a rare glimpse into the life of an "unaccompanied alien minor," thousands of whom make the dangerous journey across the border and through the U.S. justice system each year. Though there are thousands of foreign-born minors in U.S. custody, barriers of language, age, class, culture, and law conspire to make this population invisible to many. Their stories of migration are poignant, heroic, and painful.