This movie was recommended to the Conference Media Center by one of our local pastors to broaden our collection of resources on immigration. The Visitor is a feature-length movie by Overture Films. It was an Official Selection at several critical film festivals including Sundance and South by Southwest and has met loads of critical acclaim. The Visitor is a moving story that makes the issue of immigration personal. What if someone you cared about was suddenly gone and could never return? That is what happens to the characters in the story.
Walter (played by Richard Jenkins) is an economics professor, bored with his life since his wife passed away. On a rare return trip to his apartment in New York, he finds a young couple, Tarek and Zainab, living there under the assumption that they had legitimately rented the place. Walter lets them stay while they look for another place and Tarek teaches Walter to play the djembe drum, a practice that gives new energy to Walter’s life. When Tarek gets stuck in a subway turnstile and has to jump over it to get through, even though he has already paid, he is arrested. It is only then that Walter learns that his new friends are illegal immigrants from Syria and Senegal. Tarek’s mother comes to visit and Walter acts as the women’s proxy visiting Tarek in detention and hiring an immigration attorney.
This emotionally-driven drama questions the fairness of immigration laws and brings up tough questions for Christians. Tarek, his mother, and Zainab are good people who work, add to our culture, and never break the law. However, some may wonder why they all came here illegally to begin with, and the movie does not address the current roadblocks to achieving legal residency. This is not a Christian movie – the only reference to religion is that Tarek and Zainab are Muslims – but it raises important questions that Christians should be thinking about. Although many of us do not personally know an illegal immigrant, The Visitor paints an image of what that would be like. The movie is rated PG-13 but there is no sex or bad language. Because it is a feature film, your church will need a Church Video License to show the movie at church. I highly recommend this movie as part of a series on acceptance, diversity, immigration, or loving your neighbor. Click here to see a preview.
The Conference Media Center also has documentaries that look at the issue of immigration including The Guestworker, Brother Towns, Made in L.A., Lives for Sale, and coming soon, Gospel Without Borders.