In November 2020, 32 million Latino people—the largest nonwhite voting bloc in US history— will be eligible to vote for president.

Historically called a “sleeping giant” that eschewed campaigns and voting, this ethnic group is poised to awaken, said Bernardo Ruiz, director-producer of Latino Vote: Dispatches from the Battleground. (Watch the full film at the bottom of this article)

Ruiz is a two-time Emmy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker who directed and produced AMERICAN EXPERIENCE’s Roberto Clemente, the story of the Puerto Rican baseball great who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates. With an American mother and a Mexican father, Ruiz grew up in Guanajuato, Mexico, and Brooklyn, NY. His life and filming sensibilities have been shaped by what he sees as the realities of immigration and what he describes as the “love-hate relationship between the United States and Mexico.”

Ruiz said his aim was to highlight the diversity of Latino voters, which he expects may surprise some viewers. “Latino voters have a wide range of political perspectives,” he said. “The population is not at all a monolith.”

The film follows grassroots organizers, religious leaders and activists who are working to increase Latino voter turnout in the battleground states of Nevada, Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania. The voters he encounters run the gamut— left-leaning Democrats as well as Latino evangelicals, many of whom support President Donald Trump.

“I was eager to bring journalism to the screen that doesn’t rely on correspondents or pundits but instead focuses directly on the Latino organizers and voters who may very well determine the nation’s political future,” said Ruiz.

He describes his style of filmmaking as “verité documentary,” featuring close-up, personal interviews with people whose worldviews sometimes compete with each other. “That lets viewers come to their own conclusions.”

Ruiz said he learned filmmaking on the job, starting with his work as researcher on PBS’s Matters of Race. “It was really terrific on-the-job training, really practical,” he said, comparing it to the experience of a chef just starting out. “You cook in a lot of kitchens, and you pick up skills from each kitchen, and you take them to other kitchens,” he said. “Matters of Race was my first big kitchen.”

Production for Latino Vote: Dispatches from the Battleground started just weeks before the pandemic brought life to a standstill. “We had a temporary pause, but we very quickly determined that we wanted to keep going and figure out safe ways to document what was happening,” Ruiz said. “It was important to us to create an experience for the viewer that was as immersive—and as safe—as possible.”

Ruiz said he hopes the film will enhance Americans’ understanding of Latino people in the run-up to the November election and beyond. “As a country, we need to have a much more nuanced and detailed understanding about who and what the Latino electorate is.”

Watch Latino Vote: Dispatches From The Battleground

This article was originally published in Explore GBH, a monthly guide to all things GBH delivered to members of the Foundation. Become a member today.