The gorgeous short film Illegal is an example of the Internet coaxing out the goodness that lurks within us all. Financed by Houston philanthropist Curry Glassell, Illegal is spreading across the Web, touching hearts, challenging prejudice and altering stereotyped perception.
To call a human being illegal is immoral. How can a person be illegal? That word is often used with another one of our favorite words, alien.
The six-minute documentary depicts, without sensationalism or fanfare, the inner struggles and outside uncertainties faced by three undocumented American residents. Each of these young individuals is a productive, ambitious honor student. And, despite President Obama’s recent reprieve on deporting undocumented residents who arrived in this country as children, each of these dream-chasing scholars faces incarceration and relocation to a country that would be as foreign to them as to any other U.S. college student.
TakePart caught up with one of the film’s producers, Diana Espitia, to find out how the project came together, what it hopes to achieve and just why the movie is titled by a word that is commonly held to be a pejorative.
TakePart: What is the reasoning behind titling the movie “Illegal”?
Diana Espitia: To be provocative, maybe even insulting. To call a human being illegal is immoral. How can a person be illegal? That word is often used with another one of our favorite words, alien. Again, people are not aliens. Those two words put together are meant to scare people into thinking that immigrants are a threat. We want people to react to the word, think about how they use it and stop using it when discussing immigration.
TakePart: How did the various people involved with this project come together?
Diana Espitia: Divine intervention. This project had to be done. [Executive Producer] Curry Glassell is a Houston philanthropist who cares deeply about people who do not have a seat at the big table where decisions are made. I am a consultant and a naturalized citizen. [Co-producer] Luis Velez is a scholar and an activist. We are all friends. We heard the stories and watched the news coverage and came to the awareness that in order to have a civilized conversation, we had to have a tool to raise the consciousness of the nation. This tool had to be attractive, intellectual and carry a strong message. Filmmaking is the best medium for what we are trying to accomplish here: Educate the masses.
Leticia is an undocumented double major student at the University of Houston. (Photo: Illegal)
TakePart: Who is your target audience?
Diana Espitia: Every person who walks this planet. But when we imagined who we’d need to address first, we pictured people living in the United States who have no reason to discuss immigration in their everyday lives.
TakePart: How do you plan to push for change with this film?
Diana Espitia: We are partnering with organizations such as the National Urban League, National Council of La Raza (NCLR), MALDEF, the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity—organizations with large memberships who are willing to take our message to them. This film is an independent piece we are willing to gift to any organization willing to help us. We are also recruiting well-known public figures to help us spread the word. In addition, we are using every and all social media.
TakePart: What can people do to help spread your message?
Diana Espitia: Visit www.illegalmovie.org. We have several ways people can help. The most important is calling, visiting and e-mailing their legislators to emphasize the importance of immigration reform—starting with the DREAM Act. As you know, under a new administration this can all change as early as January. Many kids are probably feeling afraid and confused because there is still no path to citizenship.
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