About half an hour into "Two Americans", Valeria Fernández and Dan DeVivo's documentary on Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio and a family of Mexican immigrants whose unity has been placed in doubt by his office's raid on a car wash, Fernández appears on-screen with her mother, who's in town on visit from Montevideo, Uruguay.   The two of them are chatting with Arpaio in a Maricopa County parking lot about his days as a DEA agent in Mexico and South America, and "America's Toughest Sheriff" brings up torture.  "They talk about torture and waterboarding.  I hate to tell you what I've seen in South America, in Mexico, Turkey."

"He lived in Uruguay.  We're from Uruguay, he knows that.  My mother and I come from a country where there was a dictatorship, and people were tortured," Fernández, who as a journalist with La Voz in Phoenix was long a "pain in the ass" for Arpaio and his office, told the Latin Times.  "She has friends who were impacted by that.  So she's very sensitive to that specific issue."

But the sheriff is busy reminiscing about, perhaps, braver days: as a lone federal agent in the provinces of Turkey, he says, he battled drug runners with just five Turkish cops and one little gun.  Here, Fernández's mother interrupts: "Did you torture anyone?"

The sheriff's eyes narrow at the question.  "No, I didn't torture anyone.  They may have, not me."

When Fernández and her mother thank Arpaio and depart, the sheriff turns and walks over to members of his staff, who've witnessed the scene.  "Very liberal," Arpaio says of Fernández the senior, and cackles: he didn't torture anyone, he just watched them.

"Two Americans" covers a considerable swath of territory, including the story of 9-year-old-going-on-grown-woman Katherine Figueroa, who campaigns for the release of her parents after they're arrested by Arpaio's deputies while at work at a Phoenix car wash.  Those moments are among the film's most touching.  But Fernández and DeVivo likely wouldn't have joined forces if it wasn't for a blitz of post-9/11 national security policies - including interrogation practices scorned for years as torture - which aroused DeVivo's skepticism and later led the filmmaker, who is originally from New Jersey, to the Arizona border to make "Crossing Arizona", a documentary about borderland residents' feelings about undocumented immigration.  Fernández, named "Latina Journalist of the Year" by the National Association of Hispanic Publications in 2004 and the winner of a national award in 2009 for her series on the sheriff's immigration sweeps, had had her eye on a project about immigration she could bring to a much larger audience.  All the footage she'd shot of Figueroa and Figueroa's family wasn't gelling, though; a chance meeting with DeVivo at work on "Crossing Arizona" in the classroom of a school led to their collaboration.

The duo's film "Two Americans" captured an honorable mention last weekend at Doctubre, a documentary film festival in Mexico City.  It last aired on Al Jazeera America on Oct. 26, and re-airing dates will be announced in coming weeks.