When it comes to the immigration debate, all too often people get swept up in political generalities and forget the people, says Kristy King, programmer for the Emily Griffith Film Festival, which runs Friday, October 10 through Sunday, October 12 at the SIE FilmCenter. "We really tried to focus on individual stories and what's happening with people like you and I."
The festival aims to raise funds for the Emily Griffith Technical School, which offers professional training to over 2,500 refugees and immigrants each year. "We've put together a diverse schedule for these three days," King says.
The opening night film, Underwater Dreams, tells the story of a group of undocumented Mexican immigrants from Arizona who enter into a national competition to build an underwater robot. They go head to head with engineering students from MIT and other universities across the United States.
"It's a powerful film that shows first-generation, undocumented students and immigrants and how they have a lot to offer us and the challenges they're up against. It shows the challenges they face and how they bust through those challenges and become advocates," King says.
Two of the students featured in the film will answer questions about their experiences and how their lives have changed since the completion of the documentary; the discussion will be followed by a reception. "It will be a great night for us all to get together as a community and celebrate the diversity in our community as well," King says.
Saturday's lineup features a short film program, including one movie made by students at Emily Griffith Technical College. The film chronicles the experiences of students "coming from war-torn places and acclimating to a new country, going to school, learning English and finding a job. It's a great testament to how much these kids have gone through," King notes.
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Saturday evening will feature a showing of the Swiss film The Beekeeper, which follows a refugee from the Kurdish-Turkish war who comes to Switzerland with one goal: raising bees. "It shows the balance that happens with bees and how you can learn a lot from them," King says.
The closing night film, We Came Home, is an autobiographical account of Ariana Delawari, a second-generation, Afghan musician born in Los Angeles. "She wants to learn more about her country, her history, her father's history and learn more about her musical culture. She goes back to Afghanistan to learn more about that and to get involved in her father's culture. It's a wonderful story about going through those challenges and finding out about differences and similarities," King says.
Delawari will present her film in person and perform some of her songs. "Closing night will be a very powerful ending to a great festival," King adds.
Festivities begin Friday night at 7 p.m. For more information, tickets and a schedule, go to the Denver Film Society website.
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Find me on Twitter: @kyle_a_harris