When Westminster was considered in mid-July as a location to house immigrant children who entered the country illegally, the Carroll County Board of Commissioners spoke out against the proposal, which had been put forth by the Obama administration.
Then, shortly after the proposal was made public, the county made national news when misspelled graffiti reading "NO ILLEAGLES [sic] HERE NO UNDOCUMENTED DEMOCRATS" was painted on the face of the site where children were to have been housed. The matter was investigated as a hate crime.
Frank Baylor, of Film Lovers in Carroll County, said he was discouraged by the community's reaction.
"What I was seeing on the news was not the Carroll County I know," Baylor said. "The Carroll County that I know is full of compassionate people. It came to be that we were being portrayed as fearful and insular and uncaring, and that's just not true. It's good to get some good news out there about Carroll. It was pretty disappointing to see us as the butt of jokes around the world."
Building off of his desire to inform the community about Central American immigration, Baylor will host a free independent screening of the film "Sin Nombre" at 7:30p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21, at the Carroll Arts Center in Westminster, followed by a panel discussion with immigration experts.
Baylor said the screening and Q-and-A session are open to the entire community, and he hopes the event is a way to spark a public conversation on a very difficult and multi-faceted topic. The panel discussion will be moderated by Benjamin Garber, a member of Cedarhurst Unitarian Universalists' social justice committee, who is working on the issues of poverty, violence and corruption in Honduras.
"I've traveled to Honduras and seen firsthand everything that's going on there," Garber said. "We're focusing on the issues of social justice as opposed to just giving a handout or physical support. A majority of these children from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador — they're not fleeing because of poverty, they're leaving because of violence and injustice."
"Sin Nombre," translated "Nameless," follows a Mexican gang member as he attempts to leave behind his violent life, and a Honduran teenager attempting to make her way to the U.S. atop a moving train. Released in 2009, the film won the Sundance Film Festival directing and cinematography awards.
The director, Cary Fukunaga, is best known in the U.S. for directing the first season of the HBO series "True Detective."
Panelist Tom Deveny, whose book "Migration in Contemporary Hispanic Cinema" discusses the thematic relevance of "Sin Nombre" in one of its chapters, said Fukunaga worked to create a sense of reality among the gang and migration scenes.
"Sometimes, fiction can show us truth, and I think this film does so," Deveny said. "Some of the gang members depicted in the film are actual gang members. The director interviewed both gang members and migrants and was actually on the train one night when it was attacked. Watching a two-hour film might be a faster way to find out about this then reading a 200-page book."
In addition to Garber and Deveny, the panel will include Christianna Leahy, volunteer leader with Amnesty International and professor of comparative politics at McDaniel College; Javier Dominguez, a native of Honduras who has lived in the U.S. for 15 years; and the Rev. Jaime Garcia, associate pastor at St. John Catholic Church in Westminster. Garber said one of the missions of the Q-and-A is combating misinformation.
"There's a myth that these children are coming just because they want the quality of living in America. If it was economic, you would see huge increases of Mexican children. The poverty situation hasn't changed in Mexico," Garber said, adding, "Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world. Can you imagine being a parent and having to think 'I'm going to give up my child to save my child'? What sense of fear you must have for that."
Baylor said the idea behind the event is to use the film as a springboard for the Q-and-A of expert panelists.
"All art can stimulate thought and discussion," Baylor said. "Film is a great medium to bring information to us. Even though the story isn't completely factual, the simple act of telling that story puts us in the shoes of other people for at least an hour and a half, and it possibly gives us that perspective."
Reach staff writer Jacob deNobel at 410-857-7890 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If You Go
What: "Sin Nombre" screening and panel discussion
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21
Where: Carroll Arts Center, 91 W. Main St., Westminster
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For more information: Visit http://www.carrollartscenter.org or call 410-848-7272. The film is rated R for violence, language and some sexual content. Children younger than 17 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.