Fundraiser launches for 'Expanding Sanctuary' documentary
The film by Kristal Sotomayor spotlights the work of Juntos in ending the PARS agreement in Philadelphia in 2018.
Kristal Sotomayor had just graduated from college and was embarking on her first documentary when she walked into a community meeting held by Juntos, the immigrant rights organization in South Philly, in March of 2018.
It was “fate,” said Sotomayor, that it happened to be the perfect moment for the beginning of a partnership that would eventually produce “Expanding Sanctuary,” a documentary on the work of Juntos and immigrant activists to expand immigrant rights in Philadelphia.
Sotomayor said that at that first Juntos meeting she attended, camera in hand, the group of activists and community members began to talk about an issue that at the time “wasn't a big deal” to many in the city — but within a few months would be a focal point of immigrant rights’ activism in Philly in the midst of the national pushback on the family separation policy at the border.
Organizers were fighting for an end to the sharing of the Philadelphia police database (PARS) with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — a battle which they ultimately won when, on July 27, 2018, the city announced that it would not be renewing the contract.
“Juntos was able to bring this national issue, focus it in, and make it local,” Sotomayor said of the way that the organization and activists mobilized in order to end the PARS agreement, and support other efforts to expand sanctuary protections in the city.
Sotomayor said that her goal with the film has been to collaborate with members of Juntos and the Latinx immigrant community in South Philly to be able to show Latinx individuals in a different light from how they are often portrayed in the media.
A GoFundMe campaign, “Seed & Spark,” is raising the financial support necessary to finish the 26-minute documentary and debut it by the fall. The campaign ends Aug. 15.
In addition to rough-cut screenings to be held at Juntos’s office in which community members can provide feedback, Sotomayor said that they plan to hold a gala in September or October of this year so that everyone featured in the film can dress up and attend and celebrate their achievements.
“I just want people to watch the film and leave feeling so powerful because they’re in the film and they’re movie stars now,” Sotomayor said.
Sotomayor has entered the film in festivals, and also plans to have a number of community screenings throughout the city and state.
In addition to the collaboration and work of Juntos and members of the Latinx community in South Philly, Sotomayor also credited Marángeli Mejía Rabell, producer of Expanding Sanctuary and director of Philadelphia Latino Film Festival, as well as Annie Diaz, editor of the film and a Puerto Rican documentary and fiction filmmaker based in Lancaster, PA, with providing the support integral to completing the project.