From the Producer and Co-Director of MISSING IN BROOKS COUNTY, SOLEDAD shows what life is like for those imprisoned in immigration detention centers while they await their day in court.
I have never seen anything that depicts the stories of asylum seekers as vividly as this short film.
SOLEDAD tells the story of a young woman from Central America who was imprisoned in the Eloy Detention Facility when she sought asylum in the United States in 2017. Soledad set out on a perilous journey from her homeland after enduring horrific persecution where she was kidnapped, sex-trafficked, tortured and nearly killed.
Attorney Shefali Milczarek-Desai, who took the case pro bono, mobilized a dream team of professional women, all of whom agreed to work for free on the case. Together, they secured Soledad's release from Eloy and ultimately prevailed on her asylum claim in a rare victory for an asylum seeker in the U.S.
For some additional contextual background on the crisis in Latin America, Professor Colin Deeds writes: "The poverty and inequality prevalent in Central America are largely due to U.S. capitalistic/imperial policy over the decades that has exploited the region's resources, while marginalizing its most vulnerable populations. Successive U.S. regimes have deposed democratically elected governments in many of these countries, further destabilizing political, economic and social conditions on the ground. The violent gangs plaguing the region today are the result of mass migration from civil wars and genocides of the 1980s . The most violent gangs (MS - 13/Mara Salvatruchas) were born and bred on U.S. streets and U.S. prisons, before members were deported back to their countries of origin. The weapons they use are produced by U.S. arms manufacturers and trafficked freely thanks to the most lax gun laws on the planet. The drug trade is fueled by the U.S. insatiable demand for mind altering substances and massive profits generated. All this not to mention climate related migration that is on the rise and expected to increase."
Through one woman's story, SOLEDAD illustrates the plight faced by many asylum seekers and refugees arriving at the U.S. border and highlights the incredible work of lawyers and activists who donated their time to fight for another woman's future. SOLEDAD puts a human face to our current immigration system and invites audience members to reflect on what kind of country we want to be and how our stance on immigration impacts real human lives.
*DISCLAIMER: This film contains some sensitive content. *DVD EXTRA: The Cleaners, 2018. THE CLEANERS is a short documentary which follows 3 immigrant workers who fight back against wage theft with the help of a law school clinic.
SOLEDAD presents the experiences of one asylum seeker, from her happy childhood, to experiences of sexual violence and human trafficking, to internment in a for-profit detention center in the United States, and ultimately to freedom. Director Lisa Molomot beautifully interweaves expert perspectives from an attorney, translator, psychologist, OB/GYN, and, most importantly, the asylum seeker herself. Haunting and beautiful animations are used to bring life to their descriptions from inside the Eloy Detention Center, visually showcasing the intentionally terrifying design and practices in place.
The film makes the most of its 24 minutes, offering a wide variety of valuable instructional applications, providing unique insights to the injustices piled onto asylum seekers at the hands of CivicCore. Ultimately, while Soledad prevails in her asylum case, we see how much her success is shaped not just by Soledad herself, but by each of the incredible women profiled in this wonderful heartbreaking yet hope-filled documentary. Soledad is highly recommended for a great number of social science courses (including legal ethics, medical ethics, political science/peace and conflict, social work and counseling, incarceration studies, border studies, and gender studies among others).
SOLEDAD is a timely portrayal of the efforts of a pro bono immigration lawyer, interpreter, and team of expert witnesses on behalf of Soledad, an asylum seeker from an unnamed part of Central America. Intercut animations, by turns both whimsical and grim, are employed to illustrate aspects of the asylum process, told by the point of view of both Soledad and her lawyer and help to differentiate the short from many of the other documentary projects addressing similar issues in recent years...This short manages to elegantly offer a provocation to its audience to learn more about the real human beings that populate migrant detention centers and who, for many people in the United States, remain dispiritingly anonymous.
The animations in Soledad do not represent evidentiary claims about the veracity of the material presented but instead stage an important critique of the “humanitarian reason” (Fassin 2011) of asylum law…Their inclusion, I would argue, arises not out of desire to render every detail of Soledad’s asylum case or to appraise its truth value but instead to stage an object lesson about the complex interactions between memory, trauma, expertise, advocacy, and performance inherent to any asylum litigation.
Ultimately, I could tell that Soledad was no passive victim in her story, and the focus on the advocacy of Soledad’s legal team allows the viewer to reflect more on the inspiring encounter between the women involved. I came away with a sense of their conjoined journey into direct awareness of the highly affecting asylum process.
Shining a spotlight on the difficult process that those seeking asylum from perilous situations in their home country go through when they get to America, the film personalizes this issue in a simple but powerful way, and with its short running time, it could be a terrific option in a classroom setting.
Soledad was gang-raped at 14 in Central America. When she reported it to the police, the gang kidnapped her, threatened her family, and forced her into sex slavery. She eventually made it to the US, where she was placed in the Eloy Detention Facility in Arizona while she awaited a trial for asylum. This hard-hitting film catches up with Soledad as a team of pro-bono professional women (lawyer, psychologist, interpreter, OB/Gyn) prepare her defense. In interviews (with subtitles), Soledad painfully shares her story. While Soledad awaits her fate, filmmakers use animation and firsthand accounts to also explore the conditions in the Eloy Detention facility, which resembles a prison more than a holding center. With over 80 percent of the appeals denied in Arizona, the task is difficult. But Soledad shows great determination and courage as she advocates for herself, and the women become increasingly fond of each other. By focusing on one woman’s case, this inspiring program personalizes the immigration struggle that goes on every day.
This film is a powerful teaching tool. It is a great springboard for both asylum and detention, as well as professionalism, secondary trauma, working with interpreters and much more. Most important, it provides a glimpse of the human sides of forced migration and advocacy.
This film provides a rare opportunity to see up-close the bravery, resilience, and hardships faced by women fleeing violence from Central America. We often hear about asylum-seekers at the border in the news, but very few of us get to know the remarkable individuals impacted by the cruel policies in place. Through this film, viewers can begin to understand one of the root causes of the humanitarian crisis at our border: gender-based violence. They can also see the inspiring change that a dedicated team of women can make to help one young woman find justice and hope even in today’s exceedingly hostile legal system.
SOLEDAD is a beautifully rendered yet wrenching film to watch. It captures the dignity and humanity of a young woman, along with her dedicated lawyer and interpreter who stood with her in the pursuit of justice often denied. At the same time we are privy to the cruel, vicious and mostly privatized U.S. detention system, where systematic abuses are committed with impunity disguised behind a “rule of law” rhetoric.
The film lays bare the callous and brutal nature of the U.S. immigration/asylum system, which is in stark contrast to the compassion and altruism of everyday citizens like those supporting Soledad.
The light of this film is how a small group of women reach through the bars and, against all odds, find freedom for Soledad. The lessons of perseverance and hope are brilliantly showcased, as is the path our country must take to restore law to those seeking a safe harbor.
SOLEDAD will leave you with grief for what we have allowed to happen under this Administration, but it will also leave you inspired by the power and grace of the courageous women whose commitment to justice is unshakable. This film will change you.
SOLEDAD is a perfect reflection of what Asylum has been in the U.S. for Central American women and girls. It captures the brutality that forces girls to leave their home country. It illustrates the trauma they have escaped, as well as the re-traumatization of detention here in the U.S. Most impressive to me is the depiction of the pro bono lawyer, forensic psychologist, translator and M.D. I have never seen anything that depicts the stories of intrepid asylum seekers as vividly as in this short film. You will fall in love with Soledad as you witness her resilience.
SOLEDAD was my motivation to pursue a career in immigration law. The film captures the struggles Soledad went through, the complex legal work behind her case and the reality of the U.S. Immigration system; but most importantly, it is an exemplary story of perseverance. I hope that everyone who watches the film can feel as inspired as I am by Soledad's story, and with change, more young women like her can finally breathe again.
I commend Soledad's bravery in telling her story, which sadly is not unusual. I hope that many people watch this film, as it accurately portrays the experience of many asylum seekers.
It was so gratifying to see one of the very few asylum seekers who successfully won their case. It's an excellent film for classes.