“Greencard Warriors,” the indie film that casts a critical spotlight on such issues as immigration, military recruitment tactics, and street gangs, received an emotional reception from Washington-area moviegoers at its sold-out screening last month as part of the DC Independent Film Festival.
The film stars Dominican actor Manny Pérez, as a Los Angeles immigrant named Jesus who pushes his eldest son to enlist after a couple of U.S Army recruiters dangle the promise of citizenship for the entire family. But after the son dies, the green card promise is broken, leaving Jesus and his family living with the constant fear of deportation and neighborhood gangs that plan on taking their younger son, as well.
Audience members thanked the filmmakers for its authenticity and their willingness to bridge topics seldom acknowledged in the national conversation about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—wars that have relied disproportionately on Hispanic and immigrant soldiers. Many people attended the Feb. 22 screening shared their own stories or mentioned how the film impacted them personally.
During the Q&A session following the film, one of the audience members at the Naval Heritage Center Theater, who said she was from the Los Angeles area, told the filmmakers she appreciated the realism of the character, “who was trying to do the right thing and was sympathetic but still didn’t end up getting a happy ending. I think that makes it very approachable to folks who don’t get a chance to move out of that area very often, so thank you.”
Director Miriam Kruishoop was also asked about her motivations for making the film and whether she was advocating for changes to U.S. policies, to which she responded: “I am a story teller. I make my films out of subjects that are important to me. But if someone wants to take it to the next level then that’s a great compliment. I just want to make characters that address important things.”
In an interview with Hola Cultura before the screening, Kruishoop—a native of Holland who has lived in Los Angeles for the last decade—explained that she had set out to make a film about current issues many Latin Americans in Los Angeles face; issues that she witnessed. Being born in Holland just made it easier.
“It gave me more of an outside look of the things that were happening in L.A. I could compare how I was living in Holland and the problems we had in Holland to here,” she said.
Manny Pérez was also in attendance and took questions. He passionately connected the so-called “illegals” in the film to this country’s immigrant roots, saying his character “feels like he is part of this land.”
“At the end of the day all Americans, all of you here, are immigrants. You came from parents who are immigrants,” he said. “America is all about immigrants.”
The film was such a big hit with the audience it won Best Feature prize the following day at the festival’s closing ceremony held at the Navy Heritage Center. But not expect to see it on the big screen around here anytime soon. Underscoring the difficulties independent films face, it opens Mar. 28 for a limited run at cinemas in Los Angeles, San Diego, and New York City only. The rest of the country will have to wait for it to come out on DVD.
—by Edwin Martinez