Entertainment

Define American Film Festival Is Aiming To Change The Immigration Narrative Through Storytelling

Define American‘s mission is to engage people in the immigration debate using the stories of those being impacted. As a way of carrying the conversation, the immigration advocacy organization is hosting a film festival May 11 through May 13 in Charlotte, N.C. The festival will showcase different documentaries that touch on the myriad aspects surrounding the immigration and race debate in the U.S. Here are a few of the documentaries that will be shown at the Define American Film Festival.

1. Residenté

“Residenté” follows Calle 13 rapper, René Pérez, a.k.a. Residenté, as he travels the world to discover his roots. After having a DNA test, Residenté plans a trip around the world to trace where his family is from and tell the stories of locals in the places he visits. The experience is deeply connected to an album he created that incorporates all parts of his ancestry including languages, instruments, and folklore to tell a complete story about who Pérez is as a person and the connection shared by all people in the world.

2. Forbidden: Undocumented And Queer In Rural America

“Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America” explores the intersectionality of being both queer and undocumented in a rural community in North Carolina. The documentary follows the life of Moises Serrano as he juggles life on the fringe through the Real ID Act of 2005, getting accepted to college and figuring out his finances to afford school, love, and the fragile balance as a DACA beneficiary. The Real ID Act of 2005 came when Serrano was about to graduate high school with a hope of going to college. The act made it so undocumented people were not allowed to have driver’s licenses or government issued ID’s which effectively blocked undocumented people from going to school, getting work, and driving a car.

3. Dolores

Posted by DOLORES The Movie on Tuesday, February 14, 2017


There isn’t a trailer for this documentary but the title kind of gives you all you need to know. “Dolores” documents the life, fight, and experience of one of the most iconic activists among Latinos, Dolores Huerta. The documentary dives into her time with the farm workers in Delano, Calif. as well as her teaming up with the iconic women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem. The documentary also gives viewers a look into her personal life including loves, children, and her home life.

4. White People

Jose Antonio Vargas, the founder of Define American, is also having a film showing during the film festival. Titled “White People,” Antonio Vargas along with MTV made a documentary exploring race in America from the young, white perspective. The provocative documentary makes people uncomfortable as they tackle the issue of race in America during a conversation with young white Americans and how they navigate the touchy subject.


READ: Latino, Gay, and Undocumented in the Rural South


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Emma González Is In A New Documentary About Gun Control Called ‘Us Kids’

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Emma González Is In A New Documentary About Gun Control Called ‘Us Kids’

ANGELA WEISS / Getty

Two years ago in 2018, American activist Emma Gonzalez marked the headline of every news organization. As a victim of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland Florida, Gonzalez garnered national attention on February 17, 2018, after giving an 11-minute speech at a gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In the days, weeks, months, and years since delivering her speech, Gonzalez has made waves with her activism.

Now, the activist who is now in college is the star of a documentary directed by Kim A. Snyder called Us Kids.

Us Kids, which received a nomination for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival this past January is available to be screened on the Alamo Drafthouse virtual screening platform.

Us Kids is available to be screen on Alamo on Demand on October 30.

The film follows the stories of the students behind Never Again MSD. The student-led organization is a group advocating for regulations that work to prevent gun violence and includes Latino activists like Emma González and Samantha Fuentes. Both teens are survivors of the shooting that took place Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florid where 17 students and staff members were killed by a gunman.

In a review about the film, Variety writes that it “primarily celebrates that resilient, focused energy from teenagers who proved perhaps surprisingly articulate as well as passionate in thrusting themselves into a politicized spotlight. It’s more interested in their personalities and personal experiences than in the specific political issues wrestled with. Like ‘Newtown,’ this sometimes results in a repetitious directorial expression of empathy, particularly in the realm of inspirational montages set to pop music. Still, the subjects are duly admirable for their poise and intelligence as Snyder’s camera follows them over 18 months, in which they go from being “normal-ass kids doing normal-ass things” to a high-profile movement’s leading spokespeople.”

The trailer for the documentary was released on Oct. 22 and introduces the survivors of the shooting.

Fuentes, who was an 18-year-old senior at the time of the shooting, speaks about her experience recalling that “I was thinking about how we were going to get out if he was going to come back, was I going to die.”

“As compelling as Hogg and González are (and as touching as their friendship is — they’re each other’s biggest boosters), it might’ve been nice if ‘Us Kids’ had itself strayed farther from the mainstream media narrative in emphasizing less-familiar faces. Considerable screen time is dedicated to Samantha Fuentes, who was hit by bullets but lived while close friend Nick Dworet died next to her,” Variety explains. “She provides a relatable perspective in being occasionally less-than-composed in the public glare (we see her upchuck at the podium a couple times). Still, there are peers frequently glimpsed in the background who never seem to get a word in, while Snyder keeps the established, semi-reluctant ‘stars’ front and center.”

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Report Shows That Immigration Narratives On TV Are Latinx-Focused And Over-Emphasize Crime

Entertainment

Report Shows That Immigration Narratives On TV Are Latinx-Focused And Over-Emphasize Crime

The media advocacy group Define American recently released a study that focused on the way immigrant characters are depicted on television. The second-annual study is entitled “Change the Narrative, Change the World”.

Although the study reports progress in some areas of onscreen representation, there is still a long way to go.

For example, the study reported that half of the immigrant characters depicted on television are Latino, which is consistent with reality. What is not consistent with reality, however, is how crime-related storylines are still an overrepresented theme in these storylines.

The study shows that on television 22% of immigrant characters have crime storylines show up as part of their narratives. These types of storylines further pedal the false narrative that immigrants are criminals, when in reality, they’re just everyday people who are trying to lives their best lives. Ironically, this statistic is an improvement on the previous year’s statistics in which crime themes made up 34% of immigrants’ stories on TV.

These numbers are further proof that the media feels stories of Latino immigration have to be about sadness and hardship in order to be worth watching.

According to Define American’s website, their organization believes that “powerful storytelling is the catalyst that can reshape our country’s immigration narrative and generate significant cultural change.”

They believe that changing the narratives depicted in entertainment media can “reshape our country’s immigration narrative and generate significant cultural change.” 

“We wanted to determine if seeing the specific immigration storylines influenced [viewers’] attitudes, behavior, or knowledge in the real world,” said Sarah Lowe, the associate director of research and impact at Define American to Variety. “And we were reassured and inspired to see the impact it had.” 

Define American’s founder, Jose Antonio Vargas, is relatively optimistic about the study’s outcomes, saying that the report has “some promising findings” and the numbers “provide [him] with hope”. He added that there are still “many areas in which immigrant representation can improve”.

via Getty Images

Namely, Vargas was disappointed in television’s failure to take an intersectional approach to immigration in regards to undocumented Black immigrants. 

“Black undocumented immigrants are detained and deported at higher rates than other ethnic groups,” Vargas told Variety. “But their stories are largely left off-screen and left out of the larger narrative around immigration.” 

“Change the Narrative, Change the World” also showed that Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants are also under-represented on television compared with reality. Also worth noting, male immigrants were over-represented on television compared to reality, while immigrants with disabilities were also under-represented.

The study also showed that when viewers are exposed to TV storylines that humanize immigrants, they’re more likely to take action on immigration issues themselves. 

The effect that fictional entertainment narratives have on viewers further proves that representation does, indeed, matter. What we watch as entertainment changes the way we think about other people’s lived experiences. And that, in turn, can change the world.

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