Awardee: Kristal Sotomayor

Primary Artistic Medium: Media Arts


Expanding Sanctuary is a 26 min documentary about the campaign to end the sharing of the police database with Immigration and Customs Enforcement led by Juntos and the Latinx immigrant community in South Philly. The film outlines the entire span of the campaign including the community meetings, social media archives, protests, and the press conference where the Mayor ended the PARS agreement. It follows mother-daughter community leaders Linda and Ashley as well as Juntos organizers Olivia, Marissa, Miguel, and Erika. Through Linda’s perspective, in the form of voiceover, the film goes back-and-forth in time between her wedding (the present) and three months prior when Linda first joined Juntos. The story leads up to Linda’s wedding as a major turning point in the campaign leading up to the eventual win. The film documents the historic legislation that made Philly one of the first cities to end database sharing. The full rough cut is available upon request.

The proposed project for ARTisPHL are public town hall-style rough cut community screenings of Expanding Sanctuary in South Philadelphia. The film is currently in post-production with an intended completion date of December 2020. The screenings will provide an opportunity for community members to provide feedback on the film and reflect on the portrayal of the Latinx community in popular media. The community-informed screenings and discussions will create a space for the neighborhood to celebrate their accomplishments and imagine a world post-pandemic without policing and surveillance. The screenings will lead up to a final cut screening with Philadelphia City Council members to discuss the criminalization of immigrant communities and the ties between police and ICE.

At this time of uncertainty, news and popular media’s negative portrayals of underrepresented communities have come under harsh scrutiny. Given these new realities, engagement today takes on a new meaning and purpose. Community engagement has shifted to spotlight the positive stories of social change within a neighborhood. Exhibiting Expanding Sanctuary publicly provides the community a much needed opportunity to reconnect with their successes and re-energize activism within the community. The Latinx community in South Philadelphia is composed of predominantly low-income, newly arrived, Spanish-speaking, Latin American immigrants. The public engagement screenings will allow this highly targeted and closely surveilled community to address critical conversations about the meaning of their neighborhood, city, and the country. These screenings will provide a dialog between community and policy makers to build trust, promote healing, and inspire social change.