Immigration documentary From the Back of the Line focuses on the lives of undocumented families in Charlotte | CLT Blog

Immigration documentary From the Back of the Line focuses on the lives of undocumented families in Charlotte

Posted on 20 Mar 2013 by Armando Bellmas

[Post written by Hannah Levinson, producer of From the Back of the Line.]

Think of a story about a group of people who leave everything they know behind.”

Who appears in your mind when you read this sentence? Your parents? Your grandparents? Your neighbors? Your best friends?

The story of the United States is one of migration. Most U.S. citizens today are children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of immigrants who came to the United States for a vast array of reasons. Some came by choice, others not. Families have moved to and chosen to stay in this country for better choices, better educations, better economic opportunities and an ideal of freedom for generations on end. Our country’s response to migration and to immigrant groups also goes in waves– it leans contingently on the “state of the nation,” the robustness or weakness of the economy, and a sense of security or insecurity that is built and affected by the stories we’re told about people who do (or don’t) “belong.”

Right now, our country’s immigration policies are being starkly highlighted. They have been thrust into the limelight by national and local media, our legislators, our friends and neighbors. More often than not, conversations about immigration hover at a high level of abstraction: they’re more about numbers than names and less about families than “facts.”

As Charlotte residents, Toby Shearer, Armando Bellmas, and I are seeking to change that. We’re collaborating to create a documentary film called From the Back of the Line that explores the lives and shares the stories of undocumented immigrants living, working and raising families in Charlotte.

Toby, the film’s director, hopes he can use his knowledge of film and story to help give a new dimension to the ways we talk about immigration. “While a lot has been said recently at the national level about comprehensive immigration reform, there are many people struggling to raise mixed-status families falling through the cracks of the immigration conversation.” He continues: “People like Luis, a hardworking father of three children who are all U.S. citizens. Luis was arrested after a traffic stop concerning a broken taillight and put into deportation proceedings. His family has been fighting to keep him here while struggling to deal with the traumatic ramifications of potentially losing a father and a husband. I think Luis’s story, especially, will really get people to stop and think.”

From the Back of the Line has been in production since January of this year. I’m a UNC Charlotte graduate student and Armando is Director of Communications for the Charlotte-based immigrant rights organization the Latin American Coalition. Armando and I conceived of the project in fall 2012 and approached Toby’s production boutique Haberdashery Films in November. We’ve been planning, working, fundraising and collecting stories of immigrant families living, working, and going to school in Charlotte since.

 After receiving just over $2,000 in micro-grants from various UNC Charlotte funding streams, we decided to create an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to raise additional funds to help cover post-production costs. The campaign launched this week and the amazing support we’re receiving so far is, for me, proof of how important an issue this really is to people in Charlotte. At this rate, the funds we raise may even allow us to find new ways to expand on our project of documenting and spreading awareness of this complex issue. We’re discussing options of expanding the film to feature-length or building an interactive web-based component to increase shareability.

 “This is a dialogue that everyone needs to be an informed part of,” Toby added. “Ensuring that as many people start to learn about immigration policy’s real impacts on families, on lives, will help build a conscious understanding that this issue is personally affecting us, our city, our country, and not only our lived community, but our idea of what community should be.”

Watch the trailer and find out more about the Indiegogo campaign for From the Back of the Line.

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