Written by: Ruth Leitman (Director) and Steve Dixon (Producer)

What a difference a year can make!  When we attended the AILA convention 2011 in San Diego, we were in the thick of screening Tony & Janina’s American Wedding across the country, asking viewers of the film to visit our website (http://tonyandjanina.com) and TAKE ACTION, sending letters to President Obama, asking him to intervene in Janina’s case, and working hard to get everyday Americans engaged in dialog about Tony and Janina’s story and immigration reform.

For those of you unfamiliar with the film, it charts one family’s effort to navigate the US immigration system, culminating with wife and mother Janina Wasilewski being deported to Poland after nearly 20 years in the US and her failed attempt to gain legal status.  The film charts her husband Tony’s efforts over the subsequent 4 years to bring his wife Janina and their 6 year old  US citizen son back to America.  The film is an intimate look at the ill effects of the 3 and 10 year bar, and the ‘extreme hardship’ process on one family.  As you all know too well, spouses of those who have been deported, must prove this ‘extreme hardship’- (a term that is not clearly defined) in order to gain re-entry to the US.

Shortly after we returned from San Diego, our efforts were successful:  Tony and Janina’s ‘Motion To Reconsider’ was sustained by the Department of Homeland Security, allowing Janina and her son Brian to return to Chicago after 4 years of separation.  Their American Dream-turned-nightmare was finally over.  They now have the opportunity of re-building that American Dream again from the ground up in an economy worse than any of us have seen in our lifetime.  But they are so grateful for the chance.

We are thankful for all the true hands on support we received along the way – first and foremost to AILA, Crystal Williams, David Leopold, family attorney Royal Berg, and many more within the national AILA community, as well as Representatives Gutierrez, Quigley, and Lofgren, and Senator Durbin – all of whom offered their support to The Wasilewski’s legal effort, and our mission to use the film at the center of the advocacy to reunite the family.

Our goal has always been two-fold:  to reunite the Wasilewski’s in the US, and to use the film as broadly as possible to engage the country in substantive dialog about our current broken immigration system.  Having achieved the first part of our goal, we’re setting our sites on rolling out the film with a new ‘happy ending’ / epilogue in late 2012 and beyond.  We feel that the new version of Tony & Janina’s American Wedding will be a most powerful and effective tool to garner new hope and reframe the issue of immigration reform.

We look forward to seeing you in Nashville on Wednesday, June 13th at 9:30 PM at our opening night screening at the AILA Annual Conference, and to working locally, regionally and nationally with you and your committed organization to bring the film to your town in 2012 and beyond!

People write to us weekly sharing personal heartfelt stories of frustration about our immigration system, knowing that the influence of these stories-on-film can have. We are gathering these stories with plans of an online campaign to highlight this systemic immigration problem in the US.  Please visit the tonyandjanina.com website for updates, screening events and more. Please stay strong in your efforts to draw attention to the millions of families in the same situation that Tony, Janina and Brian were in, who need our help.

See you in Nashville!

For more information about the film, or to book a screening, please contact Steve at steve.ruthlessfilms@hotmail.com

This blog is the second in a series on the 2012 AILA Film Fest. Stay tuned in coming weeks as several of the filmmakers featured at this years’ event will be blogging about their films. For more information, including a complete list of films titles and trailers, visit the AILA Film Fest homepage.  For more information on AILA’s Annual Conference, please visit: www.aila.org/ac.