NM film production “Icebox” will explore growing problem of unaccompanied child refugees entering the U.S.
The U.S. has struggled for decades on how to control immigration at the southwestern border. Escalating violence in countries like Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador sends hundreds of thousands of people fleeing in fear from their homes each year – many of them seeking asylum in the U.S.
Out of the roughly 409,0001 people who were apprehended at the border in 2016, approximately 60,0001 of those refugees were unaccompanied children. Once apprehended, children have some special protections in place that protect them from harm until their fate is decided. However, the system is backlogged with cases, and, since they are not U.S. citizens, they are not provided legal representation. Children often have to represent themselves during legal proceedings, unless there are volunteers available to help. If they cannot prove their hardship is great enough, the deportation process begins, and the child is sent back to the country they were running from. Those who are allowed to remain in the U.S., are normally placed in foster care or in the custody of family.
For an American-born citizen, it would be difficult to imagine what terrors might drive a child to travel hundreds of miles alone to an unfamiliar place; or what it must be like for them to experience being alone in immigration facilities surrounded by armed guards once they arrive. Independent feature film “Icebox” will soon give audiences a better understanding of this experience.
“Icebox” follows the journey of a young, Honduran boy named Oscar, played by newcomer Anthony Gonzales, who is forced to flee his home after his mother receives death-threats from a local gang. Oscar leaves Honduras to find his uncle in Phoenix, Arizona. The story chronicles the boy’s experience as he is apprehended, detained and processed by Immigration Control Enforcement (ICE).
Director Daniel Sawka premiered the short film version of “Icebox” at major film festivals across the nation last year to critical praise and award. The film won Grand Jury Prize for Live Action Short at the Telluride Film Festival and AFI Fest, and caught the attention of Gracie Films executives who produced the feature version. The short film was an American Film Institute thesis project for Sawka, who is now set to direct a second, unnamed Gracie Films project in the near future.
“Icebox” just finished filming in Espanola and Albuquerque this past month, employing approximately 80 local crew members, 40 actors and 500 background talent. Starring alongside Anthony Gonzales is Genesis Rodriguez, Matthew Moreno and Omar Leyva. Producers include James L. Brooks, Diego Luna, Gael Garcia Bernal, Richard Sakai, Julie Ansell, David S. Greathouse and New Mexico co-producer Brent Morris. The film has no official premier date as of late.
Oscar’s journey in “Icebox” may be a fictional story, but it was an all-too-real scenario for 10,4681 children who fled Honduras in 2016. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) calls Honduras one of the deadliest cities in the world. Gang violence and civil war plague the country, causing waves of mass exodus. Women and children, just like Oscar, subject themselves to the U.S. immigration process everyday – not seeking the American dream, but a means of survival.
1 U.S. Border and Customers: https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/stats/southwest-border-unaccompanied-children/fy-2016