Filmmakers Eric Byler and Annabel Park may not be psychic, but their acclaimed documentary 9500 Liberty (presented by Phoenix New Times, premiering Friday, April 30 at Harkins Valley Art Theatre in Tempe) could prove prophetic for Arizona's controversial new immigration reform laws.
In 2008, two years before Governor Jan Brewer signed SB 1070, a similar measure was passed in Manassas Virginia, The Prince William County Immigration Resolution required police officers to question people they had to cause to suspect were illegal immigrants. The results were damaging -- as immigrants and business owners left the area, home foreclosures skyrocketed and empty storefronts dotted the landscape. The mandate was repealed after only two months.
Liberty follows the birth, battle, and death of the immigration resolution in Virginia, and captures raw moments at the street level and in the board rooms: a middle-aged white man yelling at a group of colored kids on a corner, "concerned citizens" making comparisons between illegal immigrants and the 9/11 terrorists, and the words painted on the wall of 9500 Liberty resident Gaudencio Fernandez, whose address lends the film its name.
Viewers also get the charged rhetoric of "Help Save Manassas" crusader and blogger Greg Letiecq and Prince William County District Supervisor chairman Corey Stewart (who pushed the immigration mandate into passage) and Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) leader Michael Hethmon, who drafted the bill for Manassas and also drafted SB 1070.
9500 Liberty will premiere at Harkins Valley Art Theatre at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 30. Eric Byler will be present for a Q&A session after the screening. Admission costs $7. For a complete list of local screenings and director appearances, visit www.9500liberty.com.