Human Rights Watch Film Fest tackles immigration, foster youth and abortion


A young woman dreams of going to school, but suddenly finds herself forced to do two jobs – in the fields and on an assembly line – to support her family.

In fruits of labor, Emily Cohen Ibañez’s 2021 documentary, Ashley Pavon, a Mexican-American teenager from California, must do just that after her mother, an undocumented worker, is threatened by immigration raids.

fruits of labor is one of the films to be screened at Human Rights Watch’s Virtual Film Festival, which opens Wednesday, in conjunction with the San Diego Museum of Photographic Arts.

Ibañez said she wanted to show “what it meant to live under the terror of ICE”, referring to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, and the effect those fears had on young people who assumed adult responsibilities to protect their parents.

Pavon, who co-wrote the film after attending workshops with Ibañez, said she felt like a “bad girl”, not doing enough to help her mother. Now she thinks working on the film helped her leave those misconceptions behind.

“In a way, I found healing throughout this process,” said Pavon, who was able to return to school and graduate from Santa Clara University.

Many of the festival’s features focus on “engaged young leaders,” said Jennifer Nedbalsky, deputy event director.

“This year’s film lineup will spark conversations about issues happening in our own communities, including access to health care, the importance of supporting young people in foster care as they work towards their goals (and) the need for immigration reform and the power of native voices,” she said.

In addition to fruits of labor, screening at 5 p.m. on Saturday, the festival includes:

  • 5 p.m. Thursday – On the fracture (2021), depicting a small town on the US-Mexico border that is home to the last abortion clinic in the Rio Grande Valley. Three members of the Latino community face death threats and societal pressure as they navigate the pathways through which public policy can have personal implications. A pre-recorded Q&A includes director Maya Cueva and film participants.
  • 5 p.m. Friday– possible selves (2021), focuses on the experiences and voices of young adoptees, rather than the system itself, as California teens strive to achieve a goal that only 3% of them achieve – getting a University diploma. A pre-recorded Q&A features director and producer Shaun Kadlec and film subject, Alex Ballantyne.
  • Anytime Wednesday-Sunday – Stream The stained dawn (2021) on Karachi feminists organizing a women’s march, clashing with the radical religious right in Pakistan, and Daughter of a Lost Bird (2020), which follows Kendra, an adopted Indigenous adult, as she reconnects with her birth family, discovers her Lummi heritage, and grapples with issues of her own identity.

Full festival passes are $35 and individual screenings are $9. Organizers have made free tickets available to those in need on a first-come, first-served basis via email, [email protected].

Note: Photo credit, screenshot by Ashley Pavon in fruits of laborpoint of view, via YouTube.

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