9500 Liberty

March 03, 2010
by Cameron D. Adams '12

Eric BylerFilmmakers Eric Byler and Annabel Park visited Hampden-Sydney on January 27, 2010.   In the Parents & Friends Lounge, the Office of Intercultural Affairs and the Moton Museum hosted the two directors for a viewing of their film 9500 Liberty .

The film, which portrays very personal and intimate accounts of immigrants, both illegal and legal, depicts the explosive battle over immigration in Prince William County, Virginia.  The battle began when county officials adopted a law requiring police to question, if they had “probable cause," anyone whom they suspected was an undocumented immigrant.  Annabel Park9500 Liberty showcases the racial divisions that ensued in Prince William and may foreshadow the battle that could spread throughout the United States as the debate over immigration continues on local and national levels.

After viewing the documentary, President Howard made brief comments and thanked everyone for coming out and sharing the experience of the film.

A panel comprised of Scott Anderson ’10, an economics major, Eric Byler, and Annabel Park, and moderated by Lacy Ward, Jr., Director of the Moton Museum, discussed the film.  Liberty PanelEric Byler commented that the man in the opening scene of 9500 Liberty was actually his neighbor, who he had not realized had such drastic and unfounded anger towards people of Latin decent, even if they were legal aliens.  Scott Anderson commented on the economic aspects of immigration and discussed the need for immigrant labor, especially in the building trades.

The panel took questions and comments from the audience. Several questions pertained to the documentary and others had a broader origin.  One question directed to the filmmakers was whether the migration of families from Prince William County to the neighboring county of Stafford was due to the large number of immigrants coming into Prince William.  Both filmmakers replied that many families moved away from Northern Virginia not solely due to the influx of immigrants, but also because of the cost of living.

The panel discussion closed, and the filmmakers stayed longer to socialize with the audience and to answer questions on an individual basis .