Springfield-based Film Team Releases Documentary on Plight of Migrant Children

Oct 26, 2019

The film Witness at Tornillo tells the story of one man who parks his RV outside a detention facility for migrant children in west Texas with hopes of spreading awareness about the US immigration policy.
Credit Carbon Trace Productions / CTP Facebook

A Springfield-based documentary production team, Carbon Trace Productions, premiered its latest film in New York City earlier this week.  The film, “Witness at Tornillo," follows one activist, Josh Rubin, who took a stand against US immigration policy by protesting outside a detention facility for migrant children in rural, west Texas.   KSMU's Jennifer Moore spoke with the founder of Carbon Trace, Dr. Andy Cline. Below is their interview.

“Three of us went to Texas in June of 2018, really to just kind of observe and be part of the protests,” Cline said.

There were mass demonstrations of people speaking out against the Trump Administration's policy that separated some migrant children from their parents after crossing the border from Mexico.

As the production crew's trip wrapped up, they sat down for an interview with activist Josh Rubin, Cline said.

“And one of the things he said was, ‘You know, I'm going to feel guilty leaving here. There's a lifetime of struggle here and I'm gonna go back home and and I'll be feeling guilty,’ he says. ‘And I think I'm probably going to have to come back,’” Cline said.

Rubin later rented an RV, telling the crew he was going to park it outside a detention facility housing children, and that he was “going to sit there until it closes.”

The documentary crew knew then that they had a story, Cline said.

The Carbon Trace Productions crew filmed Rubin and his interactions with people coming in and out of the detention facility grounds. 

The film Witness at Tornillo has elements of advocacy storytelling and watchdog journalism.

“Well, we're definitely not playing the role of objective, or so-called ‘objective’ journalists here. As far as I'm concerned, this is not a question with gray areas. This is morality versus immorality,” Cline said.

“Yes, the immigration issue is tough. It's hard. There are problems. The asylum issue is tough. It's hard. There are problems. But I don't care how tough these issues are, [or] how many problems these issues cause. There is utterly and absolutely no moral justification for hurting children as a matter of policy, on purpose,” Cline said.

Carbon Trace Productions was created on the MSU campus and did much of its early work with students. It’s now grown to its current nonprofit status.

“We are a non-profit. We do seek donations. We have a Patreon account,” Cline said.  You can reach that Patreon fundraising site by clicking here.

“A year out, I'd like Carbon Trace to be paying for itself, and five years out, I'd like us to be, kind of, the go-to place for those stories that need telling but maybe aren't going to be commercially viable. We choose our stories based on what we think people need to know, want to know, should know—not whether or not we can make money selling the film,” Cline said.

The documentary premiered in New York City on October 23 and it will show at the Moxie Cinema in downtown Springfield on Sunday, November 3 at 6:00 PM.

Shortly after those protests in the summer of 2018, Trump signed an executive order ending his administration's policy of separating migrant children from their parents who were detained as they tried to enter the U.S. illegally or as asylum seekers. Still, medical experts have said those young children may experience lifelong complications from the trauma of being separated from their parents at the hands of U.S. authorities.