Montana State University

Immigration theme of Bozeman Film Festival

October 24, 2006 -- MSU News Service


Cubans attempt to flee to the United States aboard homemade rafts in a scene from "Balseros," one of the films on immigration during a Bozeman Film Festival fall series co-hosted by the MSU department of modern languages and literatures. (Photo courtesy of "Balseros" production group)   High-Res Available

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Immigration will be the topic of a two-part film series, "Why Don't They Just Go Home?", presented by the MSU Department of Modern Languages and the Bozeman Film Festival Nov. 1 and 15.

The films will be shown at the Emerson Center for the Arts at 7:30 p.m. and followed by a panel discussion of immigration specialists, authors and filmmakers. Tickets to each film are $5 for general admission and $3 for students, seniors and groups.

"True, the immigration we're seeing into Montana is nothing compared to border states like Texas, but immigrants are coming and this is an issue worth discussing," said Bridget Kevane, chair of the department of modern languages and literatures at Montana State University and an expert on contemporary Latina literature.

"Immigrants, particularly those from Latin America, are coming for construction and service work," she said.

The department has seen a steady increase in requests for Spanish translators from law enforcement and the medical and social service communities.

"There is a crying need for Spanish," Kevane said.

The first film of the series, on Nov. 1, is the 2004 Academy-Award nominated documentary "Balseros," or Cuban Rafters.

In 1994, ongoing shortages of basic goods in Cuba prompted thousands to attempt a dangerous crossing - at least 90 open sea miles - to the United States in homemade rafts. A team of public television reporters followed seven Cubans and their families on this journey and then revisited them seven years later.

"It's not a black and white story," said Patricia Catoira, a professor of Spanish at MSU and a specialist on Cuban literature.

"The film addresses the intentions, hopes and goals of these people," Catoira said. "It raises the question of whether America is really the dream they hoped for."

On Nov. 15, "Vas Vis et Deviens," Go, Live and Become, will be shown. The fictional film is based on Operation Moses, a 1985 Israeli-American project that airlifted thousands of starved and persecuted Ethiopian Jews, known as Falasha, to Israel from refugee camps in Sudan.

The film is the story of a 9-year-old boy who learns Hebrew and French from his adoptive family and racism and bigotry from his adoptive homeland, Israel. Through the boy's story, the film examines emigration and immigration from a personal and political level. It also looks at how an immigrant's identity can be assumed, imposed, blurred and recreated.

"I recommend this film because it portrays the life of a political refugee and also touches on the dreadful, static, and dangerous life endured in refugee camps," said Ada Giusti, a professor of French at MSU.

"I hope viewers realize that millions of refugees live in such camps for 10, 20 and sometimes 30 years," Giusti said. "One can ask, 'Is this a life?' The answer is clearly 'no' and that is why the mother sends her own child to 'live and become' in an unknown land."

The series title "Why Don't They Just Go Home?" takes its name from Giusti's recent book by the same name. The non-fiction book examines contemporary French immigration and has received critical acclaim in France.

"Immigration is a hot political issue in this country as it is in most of the industrialized nations," said Giusti. "The U.S. is facing an increasingly diverse population and Montana, just like other states, will be affected by immigration."

Giusti, Catoira, and Kevane will be panelists for both evenings along with:

Paula Mozen, an award-winning social-issue documentary filmmaker and PBS consultant who has served on the film faculties at Townson University in Baltimore, Md., MSU and San Francisco State University.

Michael Finkel, a journalist and author who, in 2000, joined a group of 44 Haitian refugees on a rickety, 23-foot-long boat, in an attempt to illegally enter the United States. His New York Times article on the event won the Livingston Award for International Reporting.

Contact: Patricia Catoira, (406) 994-4447 or pcatoira@montana.edu; Ada Giusti, (406) 994-6442 or adagiusti@yahoo.com; Bridget Kevane, (406) 994-6448 or umlbk@montana.edu; Paula Mozen, (406) 624-6049 or pmozen@earthlink.net