UVA, Albemarle students premiere films seeking immigrant understanding

At a time when immigrants and refugees are being scapegoated, harassed, and violently assaulted, two student film projects are bringing increased understanding of and connection with “the other” through art.

On Saturday May 4th, from 5-7 p.m., Lighthouse Studio/Vinegar Hill Theatre, 220 W Market St., is hosting the premieres of:

Ri K’echelaj Nich’on (The Unsteady Mountain), an 8-minute animated film by UVA Art students about María Chavalan Sut, an indigenous Guatemala woman now in public sanctuary in Charlottesville after surviving an attempted murder by those trying to steal her land.

The event organizer, Federico Cuatlacuatl (UVA Studio Art), explains how this student production came to be:

“Immigration from Latinx countries is one of today’s most contentious issues, yet many UVA students have never known a Latinx undocumented immigrant well, never connected emotionally to one. I arranged for my students to meet with María, to see what an amazing woman she is. And to understand Maria, my students also needed to understand the history and culture of Guatemala. The students then channeled what they learned about María and Guatemala into this project with animation, sound, and video.”

Nosotros (We), a 10-minute documentary by the Albemarle High School Latinx Club. Immigrant Latinx students raise our community’s consciousness and combat harmful and divisive stereotypes by sharing their personal stories, revealing the diverse realities of the Latinx experience.

The movie showings are free of charge and open to the public. After the showings there will be audience Q&A and then a reception 6:30-7:00 p.m. at which media will have special access to the filmmakers. Representatives from community groups helping Ms. Sut will also be present to provide information about her struggle to receive the immigration hearing she is entitled to under US law.

After the reception ends, media will have the opportunity from 7:20-8:00 p.m. to interview Ms. Sut at her Sanctuary location: Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, 1901 Thomson Road (across Emmet Street from the Central Grounds Parking Garage).

The two movies were made independently of each other; the filmmakers only learned about the other’s project when Prof. Cuatlacuatl was a panelist for Albemarle’s Latinx College Night co-sponsored by Creciendo Juntos, a local non-profit supporting Charlottesville and Albemarle Latinx families, which later connected him with Latinx Club advisors Erin Verham, Russell Carlock, and Sarah Reyes.

Before the movies are shown, a panel of three professors and a grad student will discuss Guatemalan history, to help viewers understand why unprecedented waves of migrants from Guatemala and other Central American countries are now seeking refuge in America.

At the event Cuatlacuatl will read a letter from María to the audience, including this excerpt:

“…I am very grateful for the support of this community, for its generosity and love. I currently live in SANCTUARY, a sacred place that has healed me from many past experiences that I do not wish for anyone…In my culture we believe that we are here to learn and rise to the next level, so we must love our neighbor as ourselves. We are all brothers and sisters.”

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