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Congratulations to Richard Jenkins for Oscar Nomination!

January 23, 2009

picture-21I was excited to learn this morning that Richard Jenkins (left in photo) was recognized with a nomination for an Academy Award for his leading actor role in ‘The Visitor’.

The film has special meaning for me since I worked with immigration detainees for many years in the New York area. ‘The Visitor’ does an excellent job at revealing the realities of immigration detention in the United States today. In fact the detention center exterior resembles a former facility in Queens while the interior looks almost like the facility where I taught English in New Jersey.

As part of my work, I helped found a volunteer visiting program to boost morale for detainees. Ten years later, the project continues as Riverside Church’s Sojourner Ministry in New York and First Friends in New Jersey. What I love most about this program is how it enables detainees to meet the public one person at a time and open their eyes to how our government treats people in detention, many who have fled persecution in their home countries. Visiting detainees is also cross-cultural communication (something I’ve always been interested in). In ‘The Visitor’, Jenkins’ character and the viewer have the same experience of befriending someone from another culture and discovering the truth about how the U.S. treats “strangers in our midst“.

Relating to the theme of this blog, ‘The Visitor’ demonstrates that effective storytelling can be used to open peoples’ eyes to injustice. It is a great public awareness tool. Last year I was privileged to help Active Voice with their discussion guide to the film.

You can also learn more about how you can get involved at

And on February 22, keep your fingers crossed for Richard Jenkins when the Oscar winners are announced!

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