TIFF 2018: Icebox, A Timely Film On Immigration, Refugees and Asylum-Seekers

Photo Credit: tiff.net

“I didn’t end up in a cage, thank God.”

Swedish-born filmmaker Daniel Sawka’s ever so timely drama, Icebox, candidly encapsulates the unsettling experiences of immigrants fleeing their homes in search of a better life.

It follows a 12-year-old boy named Oscar (played by Anthony Gonzalez) as he leaves behind his home and family and journeys to the United States in hopes of obtaining asylum. His hopes are soon dashed when he gets spotted by a drone and apprehended by border control agents, who then take him to an immigrant detention centre for children in Arizona. Trapped inside the “Icebox,” Oscar feels isolated and wonders how long it will be before his case is heard before a judge.

The end credits of the film put the experiences of asylum-seekers further in perspective, as they highlight facts of the denial of refugees fleeing Central and South America and the Trump administration’s no-tolerance policy that has separated families at the border.

The film’s cast is composed entirely of immigrants and first-generation Americans of immigrant parents, who came from Guatemala, Colombia and Mexico.

Sawka’s Icebox was initially released in 2016 as a short student film. Producer James L. Brooks and his Gracie Films production company helped adapt the short into a feature film, with big names such as composers Steve Mazzaro and Hans Zimmer jumping aboard the project.

The film premiered at TIFF to an amazing audience reaction, with multiple people thanking the team afterwards for sharing this important and timely story. Following the screening, a Q&A with the cast and director shows what an incredibly diverse cast was behind the film.

During the Q&A, actor Omar Leyva, an immigrant from Mexico  noted the he went through something similar as a child and that he was thankful he “didn’t end up in a cage” and that there were a lot of people who helped him.


Writer & Director: Daniel Sawka

Producers: James L. Brooks, Richard Sakai, Julie Ansell, David Greathouse

Featuring: Anthony Gonzalez, Genesis Rodriguez, Omar Leyva, Johnny Ortiz, Matthew Moreno, Jessica Juarez