For anyone who has seen the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers, they might get that same feeling of “us” versus “them” that fills the truly indie 9500 Liberty. Body Snatchers grabbed its content and texture from the red scare, the McCarthy era where people believed that Communists (or rather aliens) launched an invasion of the small town. 9500 Liberty takes that same feeling with a Virginia town that according to some locals has been invaded by Zapatistas but the scary thing here is that the film here is a documentary.
In the McMansion and McMall loaded Prince William County, a wealthy suburb of Washington D.C., directors Annabel Park and Eric Byler weave a hot button topic film that shows a community hatefully splitting itself in half — one side the conservative, wealthy lower and middle class Anglos who wish their community to remain lily white and the other side the immigrants who moved into the lower and middle class neighborhoods but also built the McMansions, cook the food and represent much of the quiet economy of the town. The film shows the racial divide that forms as a result of a one notable blogger who creates a fear campaign camping and gets the city council to enact an immigration policy that requires police officers to question anyone they have “probable cause” to suspect as being an undocumented immigrant.
Although the film documents the protests in and front of the local government offices, the real battle takes place through the Internet as the immigrants and their supporters create their own resistance using You Tube videos (shot by the filmmakers) as well as counter blogs. The filmmakers create an all too scary vibe mostly because of the scary xenophobia and racism that exists under the guise of politicking. As director Byler mentioned before last night’s West Coast Premiere in San Francisco, “When people are made to be afraid, they tend to act in very predictable ways, and there are people who know to exploit these fears, in particular racial or cultural fears, in order to influence elections or advocate for or against legislation.”
“This is a cautionary tale where people are afraid to act in predictable ways.” He followed up by saying, “It’s a cheap lesson.” For the price of a movie ticket, the people who see the film will get a town full of objective education.