Here’s Why We Can’t Wait to Watch The Infiltrators

Claudio Rojas The Infiltrators BeLatina
Photo Credit Video Interview From democracynow.com

There are several films that we are truly pumped to see when they hit theaters, from Frozen 2 to Downton Abbey and everything in between. From blockbuster hits to indie-films and politically charged dramas, 2019 promises to be a big year in film, but of all the upcoming movies that have peaked our interest, The Infiltrators tops the list. The reviews don’t lie. The plot line is intense. The talent (both behind the camera and on screen) does not disappoint. And let’s not overlook the fact that the story is not only timely, but also frighteningly accurate and really disturbing.

Considering the state of our world, the fact that immigrants are being targeted and vilified, and DREAMers are at risk of deportation, there is arguably no story that is more important to tell, and it is as timely as ever. According to USA Today, there are currently approximately 3.6 million DREAMers in the US, who are undocumented immigrants brought to the country before their 18th birthday. Of those immigrants, about 800,000 have received protection thanks to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, aka DACA, which is an Obama-era program that protects undocumented immigrants and allows DREAMers to live and work legally in this country.

The Trump administration has attempted to end DACA, and while the future of DACA is still uncertain, the government will need to continue this program until October of this year after the Supreme Court took no action in the appeals case from lower court rulings, as reported by NBC News. This inaction keeps DACA intact at least until next term, but illegal immigrants are still at risk, which makes eye-opening films like The Infiltrators more important than ever. While the film takes place during 2012, prior to the Obama-era DACA program’s launch, here we are, seven years later, dealing with an even more complicated and disturbing immigration crisis now fueled by increasing racism and fear. The Infiltrators is the type of film we should all see, and we’ve never needed it more.

We can’t wait to watch this groundbreaking, heartbreaking, empowering and important film, and from what we know, everything from the film’s plot to the acting to the unique format are sure to leave a lasting impression — we have a feeling this is going to be a film that people are talking about for generations to come.  

This Is The True Story Of Illegal Immigrants Taking Fate Into Their Own Hands

The Infiltrators takes place in 2012, during the Obama administration, before DACA, during a time when illegal immigrants were constantly living in fear of being captured, held in detention centers while they awaited resolution of their case and potentially deported. The film follows a group of undocumented teenage immigrants who turn themselves in and intentionally get taken to a for-profit detention center in South Florida, the Broward Transitional Center. There they plan to not sit by and wait to learn their fate, but to prevent deportation and get out several other detainees who were being held captive at this center.

Let’s be clear, this is a true story. The film is based on real occurrences and true experiences of what happens in these for-profit detention centers, and how illegal immigrants are really treated behind those walls. The story begins when Claudio Rojas, an Argentine father with no criminal record, is captured by ICE officials outside of his home, and his family turns to the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA), a group of DREAMers known for stopping deportations through their activism. It is those DREAMers who hatch a plan to fight the system and break out Rojas, among other immigrants.

Marco Saavedra, one of the leaders of NIYA, is the illegal youth who willingly gets captured in hopes of exposing the corruption inside this detention center, and equally importantly, rescuing the immigrants who are being held there without due process. Marco risks deportation himself for the sake of others and the sake of his mission.

But the film isn’t just about beating the system and exposing injustices, though clearly that is a large part of the story and a hugely important part of the film’s focus. This is also a heist movie, a prison flick, a tense Oceans 11-esque story that happens to unfold in a detention center. According to a film review from The Hollywood Reporter, through the story of Marco and Claudio in the detention center, “we learn how things work, and piece together the system’s vulnerabilities.” If this film were simply a fictional heist drama, then it might feel less intense and heart-wrenching when something goes wrong. But it isn’t fictional. “Setbacks that would play as comedy in a caper film have sobering real-world ramifications” due to the fact that this story is about real people with real risks of deportation on the line. Which only makes the film more intense, more awakening, and more important.

Claudio Rojas Demogracynow.org
Photo Credit democracynow.com Interview

In an interview with Cristina Ibarra, one of the film’s creators, Ibarra explains that while Marco was inside the detention center he was able to gather important intelligence, spread that information to detainees throughout the center, and ultimately take advantage of clever legal avenues to use that intelligence in their favor. “They were taking a stereotype and using it to subvert the system,” Ibarra told Remezcla in an interview during the Sundance Film Festival.

The Film Is A Docu-Fiction Hybrid

This film is not simply a documentary, which is good news for anyone who thinks that documentaries are boring or not worthy of a trip to the movie theater. But this film is also not a fictional action film or a police drama or even a political tale. It’s all of those things combined. It’s a little bit The Italian Job and a little bit Inside Man. And then it’s also a documentary. It’s a story of human rights and social injustices. By blending first-hand accounts and documentary style interviews with authentic footage from the occurrences in 2012, along with fictionalized re-enactments by talented actors, you really feel like you are living this intense story alongside the detainees and their families.

Originally directors Alex Rivera and Cristina Ibarra envisioned the film as a short documentary, but as the story unfolded, they quickly decided they needed to blend genres. They chose to brilliantly fabricate through actor portrayals what they could not capture from reality. The film does this seamlessly, using actor performances to bring to life the story of places where the camera couldn’t go, and then using original footage to shed light on the experiences as they unfolded several years ago. The filmmakers feature footage from NIYA’s headquarters as well as interviews with some of the DREAMers’ family members and testimonials from members of the illegal immigrant community.

There Is Latinx Talent Both On Screen and Behind The Camera

It is undeniable that this film is about a sensitive subject, a divisive topic, and a very personal story of these brave immigrants and youth activists. Which is why it is so crucial and powerful that the talent both behind the camera and on screen are Latinx directors, actors and immigrants themselves who bravely lived through this experience and who are here to share their stories.

Cristina Ibarra and Alex Rivera have slightly different professional backgrounds and expertise, but they have similar family histories and a shared objective. They both come from families who crossed the border into the US, and while Ibarra has spent most of her career focusing on non-fiction work and Rivera has experience with fictional feature films, they come together to bring this story to life as only they could.  

Alex Rivera and Cristina Ibarra BeLatina
Alex Rivera and Cristina Ibarra win the NEXT Innovator Prize and the Audience Award: NEXT for The Infiltrators at 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Photo by Jemal Countess. Courtesy of Sundance Institute

In a 2017 interview with Vice, Rivera explained “both Cristina and I have been doing work on border and immigration issues for 20 years. Cristina and I both come from families of recent immigrants, some of them undocumented.” Ibarra continued to say that the majority of her work has been set along the border and she considers herself a “border filmmaker,” and while this story is set inside a detention facility in the US, it’s really a border story at heart.

Their vision for the film is to bring life to what is happening to vulnerable immigrants and to raise awareness to the injustices occurring inside these for-profit detention centers. To do this, the film features a mix of both Latinx actors portraying illegal immigrants who were a part of NIYA and who were held captive in the Broward detention center, and also the real-life people who experienced this ordeal. To say that Latinx talent and bravery is front and center in this film is an understatement.

And successful media companies are backing up their vision. Chicago Media Project came on board as executive producers and financiers, stating: “With The Infiltrators, Alex and Cristina are igniting a conversation about violence against immigrants and our team at Chicago Media Project is committed to giving them the tools they need to bring about social change.” The film project also received funding from the Sundance Film Institute and Tribeca Film Institute’s Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund.  

The Story Is Real and Very Timely

It’s no secret that our country is in the middle of an immigration crisis, with illegal immigrants and DREAMers still living in fear of deportation, thousands migrant children being torn away from their families and people being held in deportation centers for months, and political debates over immigration policy more heated and more divided than ever. And even more disturbing, poor living conditions, corruption and even death are still occurring at these immigrant detention centers throughout the country. According to an NBC News analysis based on dozens of government reports, 22 immigrants have died in ICE detention centers over the past two years. Of those immigrants, “some had been longtime legal residents, arriving as refugees or students. Others were recent asylum seekers. Many were young — half were not yet 45 years old.”

These detention centers, and the 700-bed Broward Transitional Center in particular, are supposed to be held to the highest standards. The government claims they are humane, comfortable places to live while immigration cases are resolved. But clearly that is not the case. It wasn’t the case in 2012 and it isn’t the case now.

This story is more timely than ever. People are suffering, and those people are not just from Latin America. Through all of the human stories told in The Infiltrators, we see that the immigrants fighting for justice, fighting for freedom and fighting to survive in the Broward detention center hailed from countries all over the world, yes, from Latin America, but also from Sri Lanka, and even the Congo.

And that’s what really makes this story so special and so impactful. It’s not only about exposing inhumane treatment of human beings and abuse of power, but it’s also about a coming together of people. It’s about the unification of people who are willing to take risks to do the right thing. About the power that comes from a group of immigrants with the deck stacked against them, but who manage to fight for what is right.

Viridiana Martinez The Infiltrators BeLatina
Photo Credit Interview with democracynow.com

According to Viridiana Martinez, another member of NIYA who got herself sent to the female side of the detention center and who stars in the film, “The Infiltrators shows we’re not powerless. We can fight back and we can be effective. We’re taking our agency back…we need allies and we need people to have our back and to be standing beside us, but not to speak for us,” she explains. The hope is that this film helps give a voice to the millions of undocumented immigrants in this country who feel ignored, abused or unworthy.

The film premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews from viewers and critics alike, and it’s currently making its way around the festival circuit, showing next in Miami Film Festival in March. Stay tuned for global release dates, but mark our words, you’ll be hearing a lot about this film for months, years and generations to come.