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'120 Days' shows heartbreaking reality of immigration

Posted: Oct. 21, 2015 | Tags: documentary


Photo from "120 Days"

Miguel Cortes hugs his wife and daughter as they face the choice to separate the family or become fugitives.

The documentary "120 Days" turns a spotlight on the story of the Cortes family while the father, Miguel, decides whether to voluntarily return to Mexico — with a court's offer that he has 120 days to get his affairs in order — or face deportation and the splitting apart of his family.

Introducing the lesser-known side of the immigration discussion is important, says director Ted Roach, who will be on hand for questions following the screening of "120 Days" at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22. The movie is being shown as part of the Center for Media & Social Impact’s Human Rights Film Series this week at the American University Washington College of Law.

"I want to open people’s eyes and show them this other side they never get to see, because families like the Corteses are forced to hide under the radar where most Americans can’t see," Roach said in a recent email.

Roach is a former video editor and producer at the Investigative Reporting Workshop. He earned his master’s in film from American University in 2011. Roach said in a recent phone interview that he is excited for his own personal homecoming. "120 Days" began as his thesis project, and he says he can't wait “to show my professors where I took it.”  

Since its premiere at the Austin Film Festival, the documentary has been screened at 25 festivals and won 10 awards, including Best Director and Best Feature Film at the 2015 Richmond International Film Festival. It is scheduled to be screened at the Greater Washington Immigration Film Festival in Silver Spring, Maryland, on Oct. 25; at High Point University in North Carolina on Nov. 5; at the 2015 Big Latino Festival in Los Angeles on Nov. 12; and at the Napa Valley Film Festival on Nov. 12 and 14. The documentary has also been available on most major on-demand platforms since early October.

“The best part of our country is diversity,” Roach says. He is bent on trying to change American minds and get people to be more open and welcoming to immigrants. When members of the audience say, after watching the film, that it changed their minds, it’s  “the most amazing compliment I could get” says Roach.

Other films participating:

Oct. 29 - "3 ½ Minutes, Ten Bullets" from director Marc Silver. The film follows the aftermath of the murder of Jordan Davis, a 17-year-old African American, who was shot by Michael Dunn, a white man, after an altercation at a Florida gas station.

Nov. 5 – "Out in the Night," from director Blair Dorosh-Walther. The film explores how a group of African American lesbians friends were framed by the media as a “gang of killer lesbians” after they were attacked in New York. "Out in the Night" kicked off the 28th season of the POV on PBS.

All screenings are free and open to the public and will be held in Room 602, American University Washington College of Law, 4801 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20016.

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