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‘Wrenching, Harrowing’ New Film Tackles US Border Immigration Issues

“The narrative and characters in ‘Icebox’ are inspired by so many personal stories that were told to me through years of research and outreach,” – director Daniel Sawka.

“Icebox” is a timely new film about one Honduran boy’s quest for asylum in the United States and the conditions he faces after the U.S. Border Patrol apprehends him.

Acquired by HBO, the new project from first-time writer-director Daniel Sawka is one of the first prominent films to tackle the controversial issue that is currently igniting a heated cultural and moral debate in the US.

The Trump administration has imposed new, more restrictive rules about immigrants coming from south of the US border who are fleeing violence, poverty and unemployment. The administration believes the new order will protect the US and its border but is stirring accusations of inhumane treatment of asylum seekers because of the backup at the entry portals, as depicted in the new film.

Originally, “Icebox” was shot as a short for director Daniel Sawka’s American Film Institute thesis in 2016. It would eventually be shortlisted for the 2018 Academy Awards, win the Grand Jury Award at AFI Fest, and be screened at Telluride Film Festival.

Sawka has now expanded it into a feature with the help of producer James L. Brooks and his Grace Films company. Famed movie composer Hans Zimmer also provided the score for the film.

The movie centers on the plight of a 12-year-old Honduran boy named Oscar (Anthony Gonzalez, from last year’s blockbuster “Coco”). After being forced to work for a drug gang, he must now flee for his life. His parents dispatch him on the journey through Mexico to the US, warning him of the potential dangers along the way. The goal is to reach his uncle (Omar Leyva), who is living and working outside Phoenix, Arizona.

Oscar eventually has to endure his journey on foot across the desert. When he’s apprehended by the Border Patrol, he’s thrown into a large industrial building, or “the icebox,” a processing center for Hispanic migrant children.

Here, other children huddle together to try to find warmth and comfort. The children are also separated by chain-link fences.

Struggling to resolve his new predicament, Oscar seeks help from a reporter (Genesis Rodriguez) who tours the facility.

Filmed on location in New Mexico, the film was shot primarily in Spanish with English subtitles.

“The narrative and characters in ‘Icebox’ are inspired by so many personal stories that were told to me through years of research and outreach—stories that unfortunately have become all too prevalent in today’s world,” said director Daniel Sawka.

CNN has called the film “wrenching, harrowing” and “beyond timely,” while The Wall Street Journal described it as “haunting.”

“Icebox” premiered Dec. 7 on HBO. It will be available for free online streaming by nonsubscribers here, starting Monday, Dec. 10 and will continue to be available through Jan. 10.



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