By Damia Bonmati (EFE)
Austin, Texas – This weekend, the Austin Film Festival hosted the national premiere of the documentary "120 days", which is the time that the protagonist, an illegal immigrant, has to beat the clock and leave the United States and his family behind.
Miguel Cortés and his family, all Mexican immigrants without papers, become the visible faces of a documentary that does not conceal it’s intention to push for change in the immigration policy of the first world power.
The film's director, Ted Roach, was sure that he needed a face to represent the millions of undocumented people who live and work in the country: “If you see a personal case on screen, it is impossible to ignore it”, explained the author.
"The most important audience for this movie is the English-speaking American audience. I think the Latino population in the United States and abroad will be delighted with the movie, but to make something happen, the people that really need to see it are the white, Anglo-Americans," Roach explained.
And "to make something happen," according to Roach means that the U.S. Congress would promote comprehensive immigration reform, and a deportation policy that prioritizes humanity over legalities.
That is why the filmmakers are seeking major U.S. television networks like CNN or HBO to air the documentary, hoping that Congressmen and Senators in Washington will see it.
"The American public knows this problem exists, but so far it has been easier to ignore it," says the film's cinematographer and producer, Brad Allgood.
In the opinion of the director, personifying the debate with the story of just one family shows "the human side that the media often forgets when disseminating cold statistics and blanket statements." He states, "That’s why we wanted to examine it from the very personal point of view inside a family."
The trigger for the deportation of Miguel Cortés was a traffic stop in North Carolina, where a policeman discovered that Miguel did not have a driver’s license. He was able to avoid immediate removal from the country through a $5000 bond, and a promise to leave the country within “120 days.”
From there, "120 days" shows the four months in which the Cortés family must decide what to do. Does Miguel return to Mexico without his wife and two teenage daughters? Do the four of them leave the country and return to Mexico together? Or do they disappear into the shadows, fleeing to another state and changing their identity?
A mutual acquaintance led the director to Miguel’s story, and what he calls the 'perfect character' for this debate: one example among the 400,000 deportations per year, where the victim does not have a criminal record, nor has he committed any crime apart from crossing the border illegally for the first time in 1998.
“All Miguel tries to do is provide a better life for his family. He works hard, he contributes to his community, and he wants to be accepted by his neighbors, not just make money. He is a very respectable and well-intentioned man," values Roach.
"The way that we got to know Miguel was like peeling an onion, and the better we got to know him through time, the more we began to realize that he really was the ideal person to challenge the current situation,” remembered the director in Austin.
"Miguel really is a great, model citizen..." added the producer.
"You mean a non-citizen," warned the director. "A great, model non-citizen," he corrected.
Translated and excerpted from original EFE/Univision review.