SXSW film features Austin’s Casa Marianella immigrant homeless shelter


Highlights

‘They Live Here, Now’ film features Austin immigrant homeless shelter Casa Marianella.

Hybrid documentary premieres at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar.

Some have fled violence. Others have lost loved ones. Many have endured time in immigration detention centers.

But for residents of East Austin’s Casa Marianella, an emergency homeless shelter for recently arrived asylum-seekers and immigrants — both legal and unauthorized — from around the world, navigating a new life in an unfamiliar country means another set of challenges.

While many films document the journey immigrants take to reach the United States, few capture the realities of surviving in the country immediately after their arrival or release from detention facilities. That’s what former Austinite and film director Jason Outenreath hopes to change with his latest film, “They Live Here, Now,” which premieres at South by Southwest at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. Additional screenings will follow Monday and Wednesday.

“They Live Here, Now” weaves documentary portraits with two composite characters inspired by real people. The hybrid film tells the story of a fictional Mexican teenager whose brother was murdered by gang members. She makes her journey to the U.S. and ends up at Casa Marianella. That’s how the audience meets the residents of the shelter and gets a unique glimpse into their daily lives.

READ: New study looks at East Austin’s growth through longtime residents’ eyes

Viewers see how Casa Marianella residents build fellowship, pitch in to do chores at the shelter, cook together and attend English classes before they move on to live independently. The film highlights Iraqi and Somali refugees who share their stories of acceptance, forgiveness and starting a new chapter. Salvadoran immigrants talk about fleeing gangs in Central America, and a young man from the northeastern African country of Eritrea recounts how he was sent to a detention center in Florida that separated him from his wife upon arrival.

“Standing in a room with people from 20 different countries, including all over Africa and the Middle East, gave me broader sense of this crisis of empathy,” said Outenreath, a University of Texas alumnus. “It’s not a monolithic experience.”

Casa Marianella, which has operated in Austin since 1986, has seen its population evolve over time from survivors of the Salvadoran war to asylum-seeking refugees and other immigrants from nearly 40 countries. In the shelter’s communal room, a map hanging on the wall has push pins and string zigzagging across it representing all the countries where residents began their journey.

MORE SXSW: See all of Austin360’s SXSW coverage

“Immigrants are people just like us,” said Jennifer Long, executive director of Casa Marianella. “I think that most people think differently about immigrants when they meet them. I hope through the film, people meet residents they can relate to and recognize their humanity.”

When Casa Marianella, which also offers access to legal and medical resources, launched 32 years ago, one home housed men, women and children. In 2003, a branch of the shelter called Posada Esperanza opened exclusively for women and children. Now, the nonprofit operates 13 homes in the city that serve more than 300 people annually. The demand, Long said, continues to grow.

There aren’t many places across the country operating immigrant homeless shelters, which Long said makes it challenging for the nonprofit to find partners it can work with to relocate residents. Several do exist in Texas, in cities such as El Paso, Fort Worth, San Benito, Houston and San Antonio.

For Outenreath, who spent more than a year at Casa Marianella building relationships with residents and staffers before filming, the issues illuminated in the film go beyond politics: “I’d love for people to have a stake in what happens next because, regardless of what side of the political aisle you’re on, every human being deserves respect, dignity and help in a time of need.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Community news: Council candidate forums Thursday night

TRAVIS COUNTY EAST AUSTIN Council candidate forums Thursday The city of Austin, in partnership with the city’s Ethics Review Commission and the League of Women Voters - Austin Area, is conducting a series of City Council candidate forums for the November municipal election. The next forums will be Thursday at the South Austin Senior Activity...
Austin man accused of threatening Taylor Swift was Eanes ISD bus driver, district says
Austin man accused of threatening Taylor Swift was Eanes ISD bus driver, district says

An Austin man accused of writing threatening letters to pop star Taylor Swift was working as a bus driver in the Eanes school district as recently as this year and in 2012, district officials said in a letter to parents and staff. Eric Swarbrick, 26, was charged on Sept. 20 with interstate stalking and instate communications with the intent to threaten...
Average Travis County tax bill to go up by $32 under new budget
Average Travis County tax bill to go up by $32 under new budget

The average homeowner will pay about $32 more to Travis County than last year after county commissioners on Tuesday approved a $1.09 billion budget and a tax rate of 35.42 cents per $100 of taxable value. While the county’s tax rate is lower than last year’s rate of 36.90 cents, it’s higher than the 34.12-cent tax rate that the county...
Cody Wilson replaced as director of 3D-printed gun company Defense Distributed 
Cody Wilson replaced as director of 3D-printed gun company Defense Distributed 

11 a.m. update: Cody Wilson has quit as CEO of the 3D-printed gun company Defense Distributed after recent sexual assault charges filed against him. During a news conference on Tuesday, Paloma Heindorff, the company’s vice president of operations, said Wilson tendered his resignation on Friday evening, and that he will have no role in the company...
‘Ben is Back,’ ‘Widows,” ‘Green Book’ to play Austin Film Festival
‘Ben is Back,’ ‘Widows,” ‘Green Book’ to play Austin Film Festival

Julia Roberts! Mahershala Ali! Mickey Rourke! Carey Mulligan! And Willie Nelson! No, it’s not the cast of the New New New Hollywood Squares (“I’ll take the Red Headed Stranger to block”). These are just a few of the stars in movies playing this year’s Austin Film Festival, which announced its full slate Tuesday. Here are...
More Stories