Monday, September 27, 2010

Revisiting Manassas: Watching 9500 Liberty

Last night 9500 Liberty was aired on MTV2.  It was the first time I have been able to see the final cut version of the film.  I've been watching the development of the project since its first video clips went viral three years ago.  I've also hosted Annabel Park and Eric Byler to campus for a screening of the film as a work in progress.

That said, watching the film in its entirety was an emotional experience for me. I conducted fieldwork in Manassas and in the surrounding county from 2008-2009, speaking with native-born residents and immigrants, and I was impressed how the filmmakers were able to capture the essence of the immigration controversy in Prince William County, particularly the overwhelming influence of a small group of residents, the role of groups outside the community in pushing an anti-immigrant agenda, and  Cory Stewart's crass and obvious use of a local conflict to advance his political career.

What really struck me, however, was the overwhelming pain that Prince William County's "rule of law" ordinance inflicted on the largely Latino immigrant community.

The film documents an important and rarely understood aspect of the immigration debate: how immigration is shaping local communal identity, and how poorly equipped many communities are to deal with those changes.

Annabel and Eric--job well done.

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