Inaugural Define American Film Festival will take place in Des Moines

Mexican actor Demian Bichir who earned a best actor nomination for the Oscars for playing an undocumented worker in the film “A Better Life” will be in attendance alongside the picture’s director Chris Weitz and Define American founder journalist and filmmaker Jose Antonio Vargas.


As immigration continues to be a focal point of our cultural and political discourse, Define American will hold its first Define American Film Festival in Iowa ahead of the state’s first-in-the-nation Caucuses. The event will take place at the Des Moines Arts Center, from Jan. 21-23, 2016.

In an effort to show reporters covering the candidates different angles of the immigration debate and introduce a more human angle to voters of what’s become the most contentious issue of this presidential election, DAFF will show six feature length films preceded by six short films, all exploring different immigrant experiences through both narratives and documentaries. Each feature and short combo will be followed by panel discussions featuring a mix of filmmakers, cast members and local journalists and immigration experts. Tickets are free.

“As an undocumented immigrant who’s traveled the country non-stop for the past four years, I’ve learned that immigration is the most controversial yet least understood issue in America,” said Jose Antonio Vargas, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, filmmaker and founder of Define American. “The goal of this festival is to humanize a very partisan and political issue through a slate of films that showcase – in provocative and entertaining ways the breadth of the immigrant experience in our country.”

In addition to Vargas’s film, Documented, the DAFF lineup includes Mother of George, The Joy Luck Club, A Better Life and Don’t Tell Anyone (No Le Digas a Nadie). The short selection will include Ellis, a new film directed by artist JR starring Robert De Niro. Panel discussions will be live streamed online.

“Iowa is the ideal location for our first Define American Film Festival, as it’s the proving ground for the next President,” said Rev. Ryan M. Eller, Executive Director of Define American. “Exploring this immensely relevant cultural and media moment through stories will allow us to bring a much-needed humanity and honesty to what has been an unnecessarily volatile debate.”

All presidential candidates will be invited to a closing night reception where festival attendees can speak to them about what they’ve heard and learned by watching the films and taking part in the panels.

Hola Iowa is proud to announce our partnership with the inaugural Define American Film Festival in Des Moines, Iowa from January 21-23!


Fore more information and updates on DAFF, please visit


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