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1 review, 2 user ratings

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9500 Liberty
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Those Who Forget The Recent Past Are Doomed To Repeat It"
4 stars

In all the controversy surrounding Arizona’s recently implemented policy to thwart illegal immigration by forcing its residents to provide proof of citizenship to police when they feel there is probable cause to believe that they may be in the country illegally--a program that proponents insist will do what the federal government has failed to do in the past and which opponents believe essentially legalizes racism because cops will be far more like to pull over someone who looks Hispanic than Dutch Irish--one thing that has gone largely unmentioned is the fact that a policy similar to the one in Arizona was actually implemented in one Virginia town a couple of years ago in the heat of angry rhetoric about illegals coming in and stealing jobs and resources from hard-working Americans and would prove itself to be a total failure before eventually being rescinded a few months later. That story is recounted in “9500 Liberty,” a fascinating new documentary from filmmakers Annabel Park and Eric Byler that chronicles the whole saga from start to finish in a fresh, engaging and eye-opening manner.

In the wake of a construction boom a few years earlier that was fueled in part by cheap labor, Prince William County saw the number of Latino residents rise from formerly modest levels to a peak of about 20% of the population. This did not sit well with some of the more conservative members of the community and one, Greg Letiecq, took to the Internet with a blog that luridly described every crime committed by Latinos in the area, complained about how illegals were stealing jobs and services from hard-working Americans and even suggested that armed revolutionaries were coming to slowly take over the town. Seizing on the groundswell inspired by Letiecq, a resolution was proposed that would allow local police to question anyone that they had “probable cause” to believe was in the country illegally. To many members of the community, Latino or not, this seemed like a bad idea--even the chief of police spoke out against it on the basis that it was unnecessary, would cost too much money and would leave his department open to charges of racial profiling every time they tried to implement it--but after a long and passionate debate, the resolution was finally passed--in an exceptionally perverse form of parliamentary procedure, one committee member decides to vote for it because doing so would allow him to push for a revote on it later on. As I mentioned before, the resolution would eventually be rescinded but I will leave for you to discover the twists and turns in the story--some surprising and some not--that would eventually lead to that moment.

Of course, there are some people out there who will complain about “9500 Liberty” by saying that it isn’t an objective film that offers a balanced portrait of both sides of the issue. It is true that the film is not entirely objective--Park and Byler even become part of the story themselves at one point when their short videos covering the controversy become sensations on YouTube--but that doesn’t make what it has to say any less important or relevant. Actually, they do make a concerted effort to try to play fair for the most part--instead of ambushing their opponents with shock tactics, they let them have their full say and allow them to put their collective feet in their mouths without any extra help. It may lack the polish of other recent documentaries--there are no ironic film clips or heart-tugging musical cues on display here--but what it lacks in those areas, it more than makes up for in skillful storytelling and a welcome refusal to bang viewers over the head in order to get their points across, which is more than I can say about the recent documentaries from the likes of such veteran filmmakers as Michael Moore and Oliver Stone.

After the resolution in Arizona was passed, it was announced that several other states now have similar legislation that they are hoping to pass in the future in order to stem the tide of immigrants and, more importantly, allow politicians to retain their jobs by preying on the fear of their constituents while painting anyone who objects as being soft on illegal immigration. Here is hoping that as “9500 Liberty” slowly opens around the country, it gets a chance to play in some of those cities. My guess is if enough people in those areas see what will most likely occur if such legislation is passed, they will rescind it as quickly as the people of Prince William County eventually did. After all, who doesn’t like a happy ending?

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originally posted: 07/10/10 06:40:23
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: Independent Film Festival Boston 2010 For more in the Independent Film Festival Boston 2010 series, click here.

User Comments

7/13/10 Joe C The Feigned Outrage over Arizona is a political distraction to cover for failed policy. 1 stars
7/10/10 Moon Howler Excellent film that captures a county in turmoil. 5 stars
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  DVD: 29-Nov-2011


  DVD: 29-Nov-2011

[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Eric Byler
  Annabel Park

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