Saavedra and his partner, Viridiana Martinez, as members of the immigrant advocacy group National Immigrant Youth Alliance, believe the best way to stop deportations is to do it from the inside, so they are planning a sort of prison break from the Broward Transitional Center, an immigration holding facility in Pompano Beach, Florida, in “The Infiltrators.”
This 2019 hybrid docu-drama shines a spotlight on “DREAMers,” young undocumented immigrants impacted by former President Barack Obama’s DACA, or Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, program following the failure of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors or DREAM Act to pass Congress.
A free public screening of this independent film will be held at East Tennessee State University on Monday, Feb. 17, at 7 p.m. in the Ball Hall Auditorium. Sponsored by the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts as part of the South Arts Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers, the film screening will be followed by a Q&A and reception with “Infiltrators” producer Darren Dean, a four-time Film Independent Spirit Award nominee.
Styled as a heist film, “The Infiltrators” features vérité footage, testimony and re-enactment woven together by film directors Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera “to produce a compelling argument against immigration detention,” says Film Quarterly.
Radical DREAMers, Saavedra and Martinez learn that Claudio Rojas has been detained by ICE at Broward Detention Center and hatch a plan for Saavedra to infiltrate the center and empower Rojas to work around being detained.
“‘The Infiltrators’ is such a unique combination of film genres and techniques,” says Anita DeAngelis, director of the Martin School of the Arts. “Based on a true story of a young man detained by ICE, some footage is actual and some is re-enacted. Overall, it is an exciting journey, complete with suspense, tense moments, activism and bravery.”
The docu-thriller was nearly a decade in the making, Dean says, and as a result, the mix of documentary and high-stakes mission is a combination of “creative solution as a matter of necessity” and entertainment value.
“We had secured all of our documentary footage, but there was no way for us to document what was going on within the walls of the ICE detention center,” Dean says. “As we approached the idea of combining both narrative and documentary filmmaking, we realized that this was also a groundbreaking approach to making an independent film, so we embraced that challenge.”
Both directors are “border-crossers” themselves, and Ibarra has been making award-winning films that explore the U.S.-Mexico border for 17 years. Rivera is a Sundance award-winning filmmaker who tells urgent and visually adventurous stories and was named one of Variety Magazine’s “10 Directors to Watch.”
“Most audiences want to leave the theater and take action,” says Dean, who also has been nominated for an NAACP Image Award and won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Feature for “Tangerine.” “The hard truth is something that often motivates people and if we can motivate people, we’ve done our job.
“People should come to see this film because it represents a pocket of society that we don’t get to see – people that we step over in society, people who are forgotten. The access point is how they can help. This film provides the context and educates people toward the truth.
“If you want to know how to make a difference, if you want things to change, come see this film.”
The Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers is a program of South Arts. Southern Circuit screenings are funded in part by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.
For more information on the film, visit www.infiltratorsfilm.com. For more information on the event or film series, call the Martin School of the Arts at 423-439-8587 or visit www.etsu.edu/martin. For disability accommodations, call the ETSU Office of Disability Services at 423-439-8346.