You know going in that a 90-minute documentary film about the 2008 Agriprocessors immigration raid and its aftermath will not end happily for most of its imprisoned and deported main characters. But “Abused: The Postville Raid,” holds out hope of an eventual happy ending if enough people appreciate filmmaker Luis Argueta’s vision of immigrants “not as the other but as ourselves.”
Postville documentary plays to hushed hometown crowd
Orlan Love/SourceMedia Group News • Eastern Iowa News Now
POSTVILLE – You know going in that a 90-minute documentary film about the 2008 Agriprocessors immigration raid and its aftermath will not end happily for most of its imprisoned and deported main characters.
But “Abused: The Postville Raid,” which mesmerized a full house here this evening at the high school fine arts center, holds out hope of an eventual happy ending if enough people appreciate filmmaker Luis Argueta’s vision of immigrants “not as the other but as ourselves.”
“It is a powerful and moving experience,” said community activist Maryn Olson, who saw the film for the fourth time in three days.
Olson, a leader in the community effort to help affected workers and their families recover from the personal and economic hardships inflicted by the raid, said the film “uses the people’s own voices to tell their story – a story that is not well understood outside of Postville.”
Those voices tell a story of treachery and abuse that contrasts starkly with filmed comments of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement official speaking at a congressional hearing of the agency’s professional and compassionate behavior.
The film opens with an even starker contrast of pastoral northeast Iowa scenes transitioning abruptly to sirens, choppers and agents in riot gear putting chains on befuddled workers at what was, on May 12, 2008, the nation’s leading kosher slaughterhouse.
Argueta of New York City, who visited Postville 30 times and Guatemala more than a dozen times while recording 400 hours of interviews, said the film’s reception has “surpassed my expectations to the power of four.”
Argueta, who came to Postville intending to do a short video on the raid, said he was so captivated by the spirit of the workers and the Postville community that “I have worked on nothing else for nearly the past three years.”
It premiered Tuesday at the University of Northern Iowa and has since been screened at Clarke University in Dubuque, Cornell College in Mount Vernon and Luther College in Decorah, where it drew an audience of 600 earlier in the day.
Postville students in grades six through 12 saw it Thursday morning, and it played to another full house Thursday evening at Postville’s St. Bridget’s Catholic Church, the headquarters for humanitarian aid to families dislocated by the raid.
“I really think it was fair, accurate and very factual,” said high school principal Matt Leeman, who was a first grade teacher at the time of the raid and in a position to observe its negative impact on students, families and the community.
The lasting impact on students was apparent after the film was shown Thursday at the school. About 20 students spent time with counselors later that day to help them deal with the “bad memories” evoked by the film, Leeman said.
“Argueta did a wonderful job. Everyone should see it. It would change immigration policy if people of influence saw it,” said Jeff Abbas of rural Dorchester, who rallied community support for affected workers and their families while serving as manager of the Postville radio station, KPVL.
Argueta, 64, who came legally to the United States from Guatemala in 1967, said the film was funded by foundation grants and his own money.
Argueta said he hopes to get a version of the film shown on Iowa Public Television.