George Adams' documentary Panic Nation, which begins a week-long run at Phoenix's Cinema Latino today, is really two films: one an overview of the United States' schizophrenic mindset when it comes to Mexican immigration; the other, a detailed examination of Oklahoma's version of SB 1070 -- HB 1804 -- which was signed into law back in 2007.
The 2-in-1 package accounts, in part, for its length of nearly two hours, but it's worth wading through this ambitious and somewhat flawed film if only for its depiction of Oklahoma's experience with nativist hate, which closely mirrors our own.
The Okies have their own wacko anti-immigrant fringe under the banner of I.R.O.N., Immigration Reform for Oklahoma Now. And they've got a version of Arizona's state Senator Russell Pearce in Oklahoma state Representative Randy Terrill.
I.R.O.N. intimidates legislators, and the legislators -- save for the brave defiance of Republican state Rep. Shane Jett -- mostly roll over for Terrill and the haters. The bill is passed, signed by the governor, and Latinos begin an exodus from the state.
Sound familiar? Oh, and guess who helped write the law? The hate group FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, and its legal arm IRLI, the Immigration Reform Law Institute. They're the folks who also authored SB 1070.
The Oklahoma material is the most intriguing part of the documentary, which also features interviews with comedian Carlos Mencia, former HUD director Henry Cisneros, and syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette, who has some of the film's best lines.
"We're a country of immigrants," he says at one point. "It says so in the brochure. But we really don't like immigrants. Hispanics shouldn't take it personally."
I also dug his commentary on Sand Land.
"People in Arizona have no room to complain about illegal immigration," he notes, "when they all but recruited illegal immigrants to come to Arizona to help grow that desert wasteland into what it became -- a thriving metropolis."
Navarrette's supposed to be at Cinema Latino tonight for a panel discussion to precede the 7 p.m. show. You can get all the details at Panic Nation's Facebook page. Cinema Latino is located at 7611 W. Thomas Road in Phoenix. You can eyeball a map and movie times, here.
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