EXCLUSIVE: Talk about having the pulse of an issue. Daniel Sawka first wrote and directed Icebox as a short film for his American Film Institute thesis project in 2016. The pic ended up being shortlisted for a 2018 Oscar, won a jury prize at AFI Fest and screened at Telluride. At some point James L. Brooks saw it, leading to he and his Gracie Films teaming with Sawka to develop it into a feature film.
That result is Icebox, which is having its world premiere Sunday in the Discovery section of the Toronto Film Festival. It lands smack in the middle of national outrage over the U.S. government’s controversial polices of separating families trying to cross the border (and the government’s seeming ineptness in reuniting children and their parents after the fact).
The film, based on research and interviews with child migrants, Border Patrol officers and immigration lawyers, is told from the point of view of Óscar (Anthony Gonzalez), a 12-year-old Honduran who flees the gang violence in his country and tries to get to his uncle living in the U.S. But he is caught at the border and placed in a processing center for migrant children (the “icebox”), where he becomes trapped in the system and must struggle to survive.
Genesis Rodriguez, Omar Leyva, Johnny Ortiz, Matthew Moreno and Jessica Juarez also star. Brooks, Richard Sakai, Julie Ansell, David Greathouse and Gracie Filims are producers. Endeavor Content co-financed the production and is handling worldwide sales.
Check out the clip above.