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Short films address current issues of immigration, detention

September 5th, 2018

Image from "Locked in a Box" short film

The KIPCOR Film Series opens its 2018-19 season with two short films that could have come right out of today’s news.

The series, sponsored by the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Bethel College’s peacebuilding institute, starts Sept. 9 at 3 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium, Luyken Fine Arts Center on the Bethel campus, with To Breathe Free and Locked in a Box.

The KIPCOR Film Series is free and open to the public, with a freewill offering taken to support the series and the work of KIPCOR.

To Breathe Free is about the experience of a Syrian refugee family making their way to America, while Locked in a Box looks at U.S. immigration detention centers. Both films were produced by Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.

To Breathe Free was the “Best Documentary Short” winner at the Covellite International Film Festival in 2017. The title comes from the poem by Emma Lazarus on the base of the Statue of Liberty, which includes the line “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

The film follows the five-year journey of a Syrian family fleeing the war in Homs to the refugee camps in Jordan, eventually starting a new life in Washington, D.C.

Using home movies, phone video, family photos and interviews with family members and former refugees, this short documentary gives an intimate perspective not seen in current media reporting on the world refugee crisis.

Locked in a Box is another award-winning short documentary that tells the stories of individuals held in the U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) detention system and those who visit them.

The film traces the lives of several people who fled their homelands in search of safety and freedom only to end up in U.S. prisons under a mandatory bed quota system run by ICE.

Since the 1990s, there has been massive expansion of the immigration detention system, with up to 34,000 immigrants in detention on any given day in approximately 200 different facilities, many of which are for-profit prisons.

Locked in a Box helps strip away the political rhetoric to see the human cost of detention. It won an Achievement in Documentary Film” award from the Georgia Latino Film Alliance and Film Festival.

The films’ producer, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, supports the development of visitation ministries, legal orientation programs, and community-based services to those who are released, in partnership and collaboration with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS).

Locked in a Box is the result of that collaboration between PDA and LIRS, with local partners in the hope of inspiring its viewers toward action.

These are obviously very timely films, given the current debate and polarization surrounding the immigration issue,” said Dan Wassink, KIPCOR senior mediator who organizes and coordinates the KIPCOR Film Series. “As usual, we’re hoping for an educational experience and a chance for some good, civil and informative dialogue, something that is all too rare these days.”

The post-film discussion leaders will be Harold Schlechtweg, advocacy director for the International Rescue Committee in Wichita, and Sandrine Lisk, an attorney with the Immigration Law Office, Wichita.

KMUW-FM 89, Wichita Public Radio, is media sponsor for the showing of Locked in a Box and To Breathe Free.

The KIPCOR Film Series is funded in part through the KIPCOR Peace Lecture Endowment.

Bethel College ranks at No. 1 in College Consensus’ ranking of Kansas colleges and universities, and is the only Bethel College is the only Kansas private college listed in Washington Monthly National Universities-Liberal Arts section for 2018-19. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.