The Common Good

Reel Images of Immigration: Dying to Live: A Migrant's Journey


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[Editor's Note: This week we will have a series of reviews on films with a focus on immigration. Check back each day for a new film review, and visit for more information]

100812-dying-to-live"The long journey," a Native American sage once stated, "is the migration from the head to the heart and back to the head again."

At the core of the debate around migration are spiritual issues, some of which are related to walls that exist within each one of us that affect our relationship with God, each other, and ourselves. In the immigration debate we too often confuse issues of national security and human insecurity, sovereign rights and human rights, civil law and natural law, and especially citizenship and discipleship. Not only have we often locked ourselves in unfruitful, polemical discourse, but what often get lost are the human issues at stake.

Dying to Live: A Migrant's Journey is a film which takes a profound look at the human face of the migrant and the face of Christ in the immigrant. It explores who these people are, why they leave their homes, and what they face on their journey. Drawing on the insights of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographers, theologians, church and congressional leaders, activists, musicians, and the immigrants themselves, this film explores the places of conflict, pain, and hope along the U.S.-Mexico border. As it opens up a place for dialogue and understanding among people with different views, it offers a reflection which begins with the human struggle for a more dignified life and the search to find God in the midst of it all. But more than simply giving people more information about immigration, what it offers is a new imagination.

In the last four years we have been showing this at churches, universities, and film festivals around the world, and I have seen how the film gives people a different way of looking at the migrant as well as ourselves, recognizing that we are part of a common journey, sharing common struggles, with common bonds to the one God, who came to us as a migrant is Jesus Christ and calls us to walk together as a common family.

Not only does the migrant remind me of our common journey to a promised land of justice and peace, but also prompts me to believe that if we are to use the word "alien" at all, it best describes not those who lack political papers but those who close themselves off to their neighbor in need and fail to see in the migrant an image of ourselves, a reflection of Christ and an invitation to human solidarity.

Daniel G. Groody, CSC, is the executive producer of Dying to Live: A Migrant's Journey, as well as an Assistant Professor of Theology and the Director of the Center for Latino Spirituality and Culture at the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

+ FREE Download: "Reel Images of Immigration: A Movie Guide to Discussing Faith and Immigration": Check out movie summaries and discussion questions on featured immigration films. Plus, learn how to host a film screening for your friends or small group.

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