Philadelphia filmmaker hopes short film has lasting impact on immigration

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — Kristal Sotomayor can’t watch her own work without getting emotional.

“I cry every time I watch the film,” she said of her short documentary film “Expanding Sanctuary,” which is almost in the final cut stage.

The film will be screened Thursday night at the Philadelphia City Hall Outdoor Courtyard.

Sotomayor gets especially emotional when she watches the wedding scene in the short film. She knows what showing the bride and groom, who are both immigrants, means to the bigger picture of how immigrants are viewed.

“I don’t see enough Latino immigrant stories out there that are positive, accurate,” said the 27-year-old who decided to make her own film starting in 2018.

The film centers around a woman named Linda who immigrated to the United States from Mexico.

“I’m so inspired by her,” said Sotomayor, who shot all of the videos for the film herself. “She’s a mom. She has three daughters.”

“Expanding Sanctuary” depicts Linda’s life and her fight as a member of the South Philadelphia non-profit Juntos, which advocates for immigrant rights.

Sotomayor documented the non-profit’s push against Philadelphia police sharing information with ICE through the city’s Preliminary Arraignment Reporting System (PARS) database.

“The city had a contract with ICE giving them access to view all the information from the database,” said Sotomayor adding that it ended up in an expanded fear of deportations for immigrants who had any interaction with police.

Juntos and other groups protested against PARS to stop the city from renewing its contract with ICE. Their efforts were successful. Sotomayor hopes documenting the fight in a film will inspire others.

“This (PARS) contract is in every single city in the country,” she said.

The site of the protests, Philadelphia City Hall, is now the site of screening for the 20-minute film.

“To show the film at City Hall has been a dream of mine for many years,” said Sotomayor who is both producer and director of “Expanding Sanctuary.”

The screening is possible because of programming by the city’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. The office is hosting the screening as part of its Hispanic Heritage Month events. More events are listed here: https://www.phila.gov/departments/office-of-immigrant-affairs/

By creating space to show her film, Sotomayor hopes that the action will also create a better understanding of the immigrant community.

“To have this opportunity during Hispanic Heritage Month… It’s been years in the making and I’m so thrilled,” she said.

Sotomayor hopes to have the final version of the film done early next year. Then, she hopes to have it shown at notable film festivals. Before that, there will be local screenings of the rough cut of the film followed by community conversations. For information on future screenings of “Expanding Sanctuary,” click here: https://www.expandingsanctuary.com/

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