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9500 Liberty: Immigration and Labor on Film

June 21, 2010

I was privileged to attend Annabel Park and Eric Byler’s 9500 Liberty—a vivid, representational portrait of immigration issues in northern Virginia—on June 16th 2010.

Park and Byler’s ability to depict the nature of small town politics in Manassas, Virginia reveals the rivalries, coalitions, and infighting that result from locally divisive issues.  Testimonial accounts captured my attention and drove me to think more critically about the ways in which local groups can have an impact on the nature of the legal process.  Cumulatively, these accounts illustrated the resounding need for political action and attentiveness, rather than apathy.

Moreover, Park and Byler’s masterful use of technology and medium reflect the strategies of people in their story.  From a young, techno-gorged perspective, it was refreshing to see my elders employ new technologies to forge and lead coalitions.

While my appreciation of the film likely results from the filmmakers’ passion for the subject, as a young student of history, I offer a critique on the question of objectivity.  The filmmakers become involved in the story as it unfolds in a manner reminiscent of (though much less reckless than) “Gonzo journalism”.  Perhaps, it is unfair to pigeon hole them into the role of objective documentarian.  However, the film left in me a contrarian desire to better understand the motivations behind anti-immigration policies.  By the conclusion of the film, it seemed difficult to comprehend how the filmmakers could acquire an honest interview from their opposition as they publicly associated themselves with one side.

from "9500 Liberty"

Regardless, this academic complaint should not take away from the film’s resounding success in depicting the convergence of activism, technology, and politics on the issue of immigration.  It is an inspirational job well done.

Guest blog by Sam Harris, Interfaith Worker Justice-Kalmanovitz Intiative Intern

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