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Documentary Explores How a Play Enabled Young Asylum Seekers to Tell Their Stories

Documentary Explores How a Play Enabled Young Asylum Seekers to Tell Their Stories

The film, Finding Shelter, chronicles the impact of the play Shelter on its young subjects and national audiences—and looks back at a pivotal phase in Latinx youth immigration to the US.

The documentary screens on September 14 as part of the NewFilmmakers Los Angeles Film Festival’s InFocus: Latinx & Hispanic Cinema event at the Mary Pickford Theater in Hollywood.

Click here for Finding Shelter Trailer: and for a high resolution photo.

Valencia, Calif. (August 14) – As thousands of migrant children continue to be detained at the U.S.-Mexico border, a new documentary from CalArts Center for New Performance (CNP)/Duende CalArts sheds light on the struggles of young asylum seekers.

On Saturday, September 14, Finding Shelter screens at the NewFilmmakers Los Angeles Film Festival (NFMLA) as part of its InFocus: Latinx & Hispanic Cinema event. In partnership with The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the 2019 NFMLA Film Festival will be held at the Mary Pickford Theater in Hollywood.

Finding Shelter’s director Marissa Chibas is on the faculty of the CalArts School of Theater and Head of Duende CalArts. The documentary explores the development and aftermath of Shelter, the critically acclaimed 2016 play about unaccompanied Central American youth making the hazardous journey to the United States. Based on extensive interviews with undocumented Central American youth and those around them, Shelter, a project of CNP/Duende CalArts, was written and conceived by Chibas.

“The more I get to know the journeys these brave new dreamers undertook the more I admire their courage, strength, and deep desire to make something of their lives,” said Chibas. “Their stories are similar to those of countless other Americans from different parts of the world who sacrificed everything to make it to these shores. The resilience and determination I see in these young people no wall can stop, no fear mongering can conquer.”

The documentary focuses on the young asylum-seekers whose real-life experiences informed the play, their two-year involvement in the project, the impact on the creative team involved, and performances in East LA’s Lincoln Park and Washington DC’s Kennedy Center. Finding Shelter is narrated by a young woman, who was originally interviewed for the play, received asylum, and is now studying engineering in college.

Interviews with experts in the field of immigration policy provide timely context in the documentary. They include journalist and producer Ruxandra Guidi, who covers immigration, and border issues; Dr. Kate Swanson, Professor of Geography at San Diego State University, whose work focuses on youth migration in Latin America and the U.S./Mexico border region; and Dr. Susan Terrio, Georgetown University Professor Emeritus, author of Whose Child Am I? Unaccompanied, Undocumented Children in US Immigration Custody. Dr. Terrio’s book was one of the original inspirations for the project.

The film offers a look at the origins of the current border crisis. Issues of immigration, asylum, and deportation are even more pressing than they were when Shelter debuted in 2016. According to recent US Border Patrol figures cited in Vox, on any given day, 2,000 unaccompanied children are in Border Patrol custody.

Finding Shelter enjoyed an enthusiastic and well-attended premiere screening and panel discussion at the Sotomayor High School for Science and Art in Los Angeles.The film has since been screened at: Segal International Film Festival NYC, San Diego Latino Film Festival and Nevertheless Film Festival in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Finding Shelter also recently screened at the opening reception of the Los Angeles United Methodist Museum of Social Justice’s exhibition, Visualizing the People’s History: Richard Cross’s Images of the Central American Liberation Wars.

More about Finding Shelter

Saturday, September 14, 2019 at 3:30-11 pm

The Mary Pickford Theater
1313 Vine St., Los Angeles, CA 90028 

CalArts Center for New Performance (CNP), the professional producing arm of California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), was established to provide a unique artist- and project-driven framework for the development and realization of original theater, music, dance, media and interdisciplinary projects. Extending the progressive work carried out at CalArts into a direct dialogue with professional communities at the local, national and international levels, CNP offers an alternative model to support emerging directions in the performing arts.

Established by Marissa Chibas in 2009, Duende CalArts brings prominent Latinx and Latin American artists from the performance community to develop adventurous projects at the CalArts Center for New Performance.

California Institute of the Arts has set the pace for educating professional artists since 1970. Offering rigorous undergraduate and graduate degree programs through six schools—Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music, and Theater—CalArts has championed creative excellence, critical reflection, and the development of new forms and expressions. As successive generations of faculty and alumni have helped shape the landscape of contemporary arts, the Institute first envisioned by Walt Disney encompasses a vibrant, eclectic community with global reach, inviting experimentation, independent inquiry, and active collaboration and exchange among artists, artistic disciplines and cultural traditions.