Whether I am watching an unedited independent film in a small local theater or a film that won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, there is something very exciting about film festivals. Filmmakers are eager to share their artistic expressions and answer questions about their experiences making movies. Audience members readily give their undivided attention. And unlike the limited formats given to the news or presidential candidate debates, films tell a complete story. The inaugural American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Film Fest at the Annual Conference in Nashville this year is sure to be a hit.
Immigration films are important because they shape the public’s perception of immigrants. They offer viewers a chance to connect with characters and in turn, our clients. Filmmakers can educate the general public about why our current immigration system needs to be fixed. The lack of poetic justice can make viewers feel uncomfortable with the fairness of our immigration laws. Films can be persuasive, arguing against the border wall for example, or they can simply examine a unique perspective on immigration. No matter how many clients and different types of cases I have, it is always eye opening to see the points of view expressed in films about immigration.
The AILA Film Fest will offer a variety of feature films and shorts. For those of you that I won’t see on the red carpet, here are the films to check out:
The Other Side of Immigration
Based on over 700 interviews, The Other Side of Immigration asks why so many Mexicans leave home to work in the United States and what happens to the families and communities they leave behind. Through an approach that is both subtle and thought provoking, the film challenges audiences to imagine more creative and effective immigration policies.
Lost Boys of Sudan
Lost Boys of Sudan is an Emmy-nominated feature-length documentary that follows two Sudanese refugees on an extraordinary journey from Africa to America. Orphaned as young boys in one of Africa’s cruelest civil wars, Peter Dut and Santino Chuor survived lion attacks and militia gunfire to reach a refugee camp in Kenya along with thousands of other children. From there, remarkably, they were chosen to come to America. Safe at last from physical danger and hunger, a world away from home, they find themselves confronted with the abundance and alienation of contemporary American suburbia.
SHORT: Next Door Neighbors: Somali Soomaali & Little Kurdistan, USA
Nashville Public Television’s award winning Next Door Neighbors series looks at Nashville’s status as a new destination city for refugees and immigrants, and explores the rich diversity of people now calling Nashville home. Across the United States, mid-sized cities like Nashville, TN are experiencing unprecedented growth in their international populations. Together these communities are redefining the traditional international city on a smaller local scale.
Tony & Janina’s American Wedding
This film follows a Polish American family through the red tape of the current U.S. immigration system, telling the untold human rights story of post-9/11, that every undocumented immigrant in America faces today.
The Least of These
Detention of immigrant children in a former medium-security prison in Texas leads to controversy when three activist attorneys discover troubling conditions at the facility. This compelling documentary film explores the role – and limits – of community activism, and considers how American rights and values apply to the least powerful among us.
SHORT: The Invisibles
Every year, thousands of migrants face kidnap, rape and murder in Mexico. Driven by grinding poverty and insecurity back home, they travel through Mexico in hope of reaching the USA with its promise of a better life. But all too often their dreams are turned to nightmares. Told over four parts, The Invisibles exposes the truth behind one of the most dangerous journeys in the world and reveals the untold stories of the people who make the journey north through Mexico.
“Papers” is the story of undocumented youth and the challenges they face as they turn 18 without legal status. There are approximately 2 million undocumented children who were born outside the U.S. and raised in this country. These are young people who were educated in American schools, hold American values, know only the U.S. as home and who, upon high school graduation, find the door to their future slammed shut.
Sixty-two-year-old Walter Vale is sleepwalking through his life. Having lost his passion for teaching and writing, he fills the void by unsuccessfully trying to learn to play classical piano. When his college sends him to Manhattan to attend a conference, Walter is surprised to find a young couple has taken up residence in his apartment. Victims of a real estate scam, Tarek, a Syrian man, and Zainab, his Senegalese girlfriend, have nowhere else to go.
SHORT: Border Stories
Border Stories is re-imagining the documentary, one with no beginning, middle, or end. Its only linear aspect is the border itself. Our crew travels the length of the U.S.–Mexico border, from Brownsville, Texas to Tijuana, Mexico in search of stories that portray the human face of this politically and emotionally-charged region.