Cleveland International Film Festival } April 7 – April 20, 2021

WELL-FOUNDED FEAR

Year: 1999
Country: United States
Run Time: 119 minutes

With the obscene spectacle of US congressmen playing Santa to motherless Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez for propaganda purposes, WELL-FOUNDED FEAR has more urgency and relevance than ever. The documentary examines the US Immigration and Naturalization Service's political-asylum policy, and the administrators who make the momentous decision of who deserves sanctuary in the Land of the Free and who gets deported. A stream of applicants bear tearful testimony to establish their "well-founded fear" of persecution back home, by Salvadoran guerillas, Chinese forced sterilization squads, Algerian fundamentalists, Sudanese warlords, or Rumanian political thugs. All are heard out by INS officials, careworn and painfully aware that some of these refugees are telling the truth ? but that most lie outright, fabricating atrocities to garner sympathy and vital US residence. Only one in 200 passes the test, others sieved out via inconsistencies in their agonized narratives or sheer bureaucrat intuition. The overall process, cynically referred to as "asylum roulette," is as arbitrary as buying a lottery ticket. This was the first time cameras were allowed into the INS inner sanctum during proceedings. (In English and some Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Turkish, Punjabi, Spanish, Arabic, and Fulani with English subtitles.)

Directors
Michael Camerini, Shari Robertson

Producer
Shari Robertson, Michael Camerini.

Cinematography
Michael Camerini.

Editing
Karen Schmeer, Christopher Osborn.

Principal Cast
With the obscene spectacle of US congressmen playing Santa to motherless Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez for propaganda purposes, WELL-FOUNDED FEAR has more urgency and relevance than ever. The documentary examines the US Immigration and Naturalization Service's political-asylum policy, and the administrators who make the momentous decision of who deserves sanctuary in the Land of the Free and who gets deported. A stream of applicants bear tearful testimony to establish their "well-founded fear" of persecution back home, by Salvadoran guerillas, Chinese forced sterilization squads, Algerian fundamentalists, Sudanese warlords, or Rumanian political thugs. All are heard out by INS officials, careworn and painfully aware that some of these refugees are telling the truth ? but that most lie outright, fabricating atrocities to garner sympathy and vital US residence. Only one in 200 passes the test, others sieved out via inconsistencies in their agonized narratives or sheer bureaucrat intuition. The overall process, cynically referred to as "asylum roulette, " is as arbitrary as buying a lottery ticket. This was the first time cameras were allowed into the INS inner sanctum during proceedings. (In English and some Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Turkish, Punjabi, Spanish, Arabic, and Fulani with English subtitles.)

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