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ACLU at Sundance: When Immigration Policies Tears Families Apart

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January 24, 2008

Last night when Geoff Gilmore, the director of the festival, introduced “The Visitor,” he started by saying that he never has any favorites, but that “The Visitor” was one of his favorites. And in the five or six Sundance festivals I’ve been to, I have to say it’s one of my favorites too. (Despite wiping out on a patch of ice en route to the screening, I hold no grudge toward this film.)

Tom McCarthy (“The Station Agent”) beautifully explores how unjust immigration policies can break family bonds. The story is at once comic and tragic, and quietly and gracefully delivers a pronounced commentary on America’s war on terror.

The film got a very long standing ovation, and McCarthy and the entire cast, including the remarkable Richard Jenkins, took to the stage to answer questions and take a bow.

McCarthy said he started with two characters and then developed the story after reading about immigration detention centers . His research was aided by the Sojourners organization, and with their help he was able to visit immigration detention facilities and talk to detainees. He also spoke to people at the forefront of the immigration debate.

One audience member asked, “Who is the visitor?” and McCarthy admits while the cast and crew have had many conversations about that question, he prefers to leave it unanswered and let audiences engage in that same conversation.

Participant Productions is one of the companies releasing the film, and they are very good at facilitating and promoting this type of social conversation.

The movie will be released on April 11 in New York; wider release will follow.