Refugees in Austin find a home and a community

The 2018 edition of the SXSW Conference and Festivals is here, and the Cinapse team is on the ground, covering all things film.

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In a nondescript house on the East side of Austin, refugees from all over the world call Casa Marianella home. The new documentary They Live Here Now shows this place and more importantly its people in a genuine, compassionate light.

Director Jason Outenreath lived in Austin for several years, and discovered Casa Marianella as someone who simply cared about the issue. He couldn’t believe how little was known about this place that served some of the most vulnerable people in the community.

After hanging around and volunteering for a while, Jason knew this house had to get the documentary treatment. Obviously, seeing those in need receive a refuge from the anti-immigrant storm that’s overtaking this country was a draw, but it was the hard work and dedication of volunteers and staff that really wowed him.

The manner of filming fit the house perfectly. Jason shot right in the middle of the action, as interviewees stand in door frames while staff members move around them to get their work done. The willingness of residents to talk is a reflection of the relationships he built over time. Some refugees were eager to be heard while others had to be made comfortable before they would speak.

The through line of the story is Nayeli, a composite fictional character that represents a very real type of person who comes through Casa Marianella and is even played by an immigrant from Mexico. We see her struggle with being separated from her father, deal with the trauma of losing her mother while crossing the desert of northern Mexico, and navigate the legal system with a lawyer the house provides.

Life isn’t getting any easier for refugees, and places like Casa Marianella continue to provide a shelter from the storm for people who have had to leave their home country, usually under horrific circumstances. They Live Here Now allows audiences a peak behind the door to see real people helping each other in hopes of a better tomorrow.

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