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More than 225 people packed the Harkins Valley Art Theatre on Friday, April 30, for the sold-out premiere screening of the documentary 9500 Liberty and a Q&A session with co-director Eric Byler.
The film chronicles the heated battle over an Immigration Resolution (drafted by the same folks who brought us SB 1070), in Prince William County, Virginia that passed in 2008 and was quickly repealed because of devastating economic effects (read more about it here). 9500 Liberty captures both sides of the battle in Prince William County through numerous interviews and video clips, some of which provoked the audience at Harkins into both jeers and cheers.
After the 7 p.m. screening, the audience had an opportunity to ask 9500 Liberty co-director Eric Byler some questions. Lydia Aranda, a local Wells Fargo executive and a member of the Governor's Latino Advisory Council, moderated the Q&A. She asked Byler to describe the main lesson he'd learned in Prince William County that continues to be relevant here.
"If [co-director] Annabel [Park] were here, I know what she'd say," Byler replied. "The biggest lesson is that the immigrants in our community are already integrated into the economy, because the economy does not discriminate based on your national origin. A dollar is a dollar."
One audience member asked Byler what it might take to get SB 1070 overturned in Arizona, and if large demonstrations might be effective. After explaining that the demonstrators in Prince William County, particularly Mexicans Without Borders, were ultimately ineffective in getting the resolution changed, Byler said, "The business community went to the board of supervisors privately, without any kind of public display, and asked them to change the law. And that laid the groundwork."
Whether or not the success of SB 1070 also hinges on economic impacts and appeals from the business community remains to be seen, but people's interest in trying to learn from the past was obvious at the 9500 Liberty screenings. After the sold-out 7 p.m. screening on Friday, there was already a line winding down Mill Avenue for the 9 p.m. showing. Additional screenings throughout the weekend at Harkins Gateway Pavilions 18 and Harkins Scottsdale 101 Theatre were also well-attended.
For more information on 9500 Liberty and future screenings in Phoenix, visit www.9500liberty.com.