Since its founding in 2013, the Immigration Film Festival has sought to inspire its attendees into action. The festival wasn’t founded by a group of cinephiles but rather by the Washington Ethical Society, a Unitarian Universalist church that describes itself as “a humanistic congregation that affirms the worth of every person.” In 2013, The WEC was looking for ways to generate interest in immigration policy and believed that the most effective way to do so was to have people directly engage with stories of immigration. And so the Greater Washington Immigration Film Festival was born.
IFF is run by a volunteer steering committee who honor the festival’s social justice oriented origins by releasing “take actions” that correspond to each film for viewers to refer to after the screenings. Past recommended actions include contacting your congressperson, purchasing from immigrant-run businesses, or cooking meals for migrant families.
The theme of the 2022 Immigration Film festival is “UNSETTLED: Finding Home in a World of Migration,” a theme the steering committee hopes will resonate with D.C. residents as we see rising rates of migration to our city. This year the festival will be a hybrid event and kicked off October 13, with a mix of in person and virtual screenings. Dana Lea, who sits on IFF’s steering committee, shares that IFF found creative ways of keeping up the momentum virtually throughout the pandemic – in fact, the nature of these virtual screenings brought the festival a more global audience. “Coming out of the pandemic we obviously want to have the festival be in person, because you just can’t beat those in-person connections and in-theater experiences. But when we went virtual we were able to tap into this international audience and we definitely wanted to be able to offer that again.”
The first in-person event will be held at the social justice oriented Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center with the U.S. premier of “My DACA Life.” The film follows the life of Maribel Serrano, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipient who benefitted from the policy during the Obama administration but experienced serious hardships during Trump-era immigration policy changes. The film’s director and producer Fanny Grande, will be joined by Mariebel Serrano, the film’s subject, for a discussion after the film moderated by a fellow DACA recipient. Serrano also acted as a producer on the project.
Another festival screening you don’t want to miss is the North American premiere of documentary “Ljubomir Stanisic: Heartbeat,” which tells the story of a man who flees war-torn Bosnia and finds refuge and inspiration in cooking. The screening will take place this Sunday at Planet Word, followed by a panel discussion on creating home through food featuring Johanna Mendelson Forman, a professor at American University whose research focuses on the intersection of food and conflict. Light bites from Immigrant Food will also be offered.
Tickets for both virtual and in person screenings are available for purchase on the festival’s eventive platform. If you are interested in more than one film, you also have the opportunity to purchase passes that allow you access to either all in person or virtual screenings or all of the films. All virtual screenings will be available through October 23.