The Unafraid focuses on the lives of three young adults living in Georgia who are in the United States under DACA status. For those who are not familiar with the meaning of the term DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Within this policy some people who were brought to the United States illegally as children are able to receive a two year deferment from deportation and can become eligible for a work permit. This term has been in the news a great deal, but The Unafraid began filming back in 2014. Spanning roughly three years, from the Summer of 2014 to the Fall of 2016, this film provides a detailed look into the lives of three undocumented families and their DACA children.
The opening of The Unafraid is full of hope and excitement as we see the graduation of three students from high school. Alejandro, who goes by Cheesecake, Aldo, and Sylvia all live in the state of Georgia and are identified as part of the DACA program. Their parents at some point came to this country through illegal means, throughout the documentary a parent from each family shares how they came to the United States, in the hopes of giving their children a better life. At the start of the film all three are planning to attend college in the Fall, but as we move forward in time we learn that none of them are able to attend school in Georgia. There are specific regulations that prohibit undocumented or DACA immigrants from attending the top five ranked schools in the state and they also are not eligible for in state tuition and must pay international fees. These limitations have kept all three recent high school graduates from attending college, though they are part of something that identifies as a university.
Aldo, Cheesecake, and Sylvia are all part of an activist organization called Freedom University, which works to help better the lives of immigrants through peaceful protest and other activities. In The Unafraid we see them plan and execute a sit-in at the University of Georgia. Their plan is so well thought out that they even have lawyers and bonds prepared should anyone be arrested. Beyond activist work Freedom University, though the help of sponsors, is able to take high school graduates, including the three who are the focus of the documentary, on an out of state college tour. This allows them to see the options that they have available and for Cheesecake results in a positive step on his path to higher education. The film shows just how hard it is to live in the United States as someone who is undocumented, but beyond that it highlights how children who grew up in this country feel as though they are separated from the friends and connections they have made growing up here. Sylvia and Aldo continue to struggle with finding work, attempting to find a way to go to college, and with trying to help their families. While Cheesecake does have the benefit of being accepted into a college there are still struggles that he deals with once he is outside of Georgia. The Unafraid also highlights the positive activist work all three of them are doing and the desire they have to make a better future for the generations behind them.
The Human Rights Watch Film Festival is presenting 15 films over the course of seven days, June 14th to the 21st, at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Elinor Bunin Munroe film Center and at the IFC Center. Each film is followed by a discussion session that viewers can participate in. You can find the full schedule on their site, including The Unafraid.
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