EXCLUSIVE: Almost a thousand migrant children separated from their families at the U.S. border during the Trump administration have yet to be reunited with their parents, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Many other migrant parents might still be waiting to get their children back were it not for the efforts of Immigrant Families Together, a mom-led organization that sprang up in response to the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance policy.” The story of anguished parents helped by IFT is told in the documentary Split at the Root, directed by Linda Goldstein Knowlton. Today, Ava DuVernay’s Array Releasing announced it has acquired rights to the film, with plans to debut it in select theaters and on Netflix on March 3.
“Split at the Root follows the emotional journey of mothers separated from their children at the U.S. border and the grassroots initiative that, against all odds, reunites those families,” according to a description of the film. “When a Guatemalan mother seeking asylum was separated from her kids under Zero Tolerance Policy, a Facebook post by a mother in Queens coalesced into a movement as thousands of like-minded women across the US refused to stand by quietly. Immigrant Families Together was born as a rapid response group committed to doing what the government couldn’t—or wouldn’t do: reunite parents with their children separated by the Zero Tolerance Policy.”
Rosario Dawson executive produces the film. Array’s deal covers distribution rights in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
“Split at the Root commands your attention and ignites empathy,” said Tilane Jones, president of Array, who announced the acquisition. “The film showcases the power of citizens when united in allyship. We are ecstatic to add this timely and emotionally-charged documentary to our catalog.”
The film held its world premiere at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas. Reviewing it for Deadline at SXSW, Anna Smith wrote, “The human cost of the ‘zero tolerance’ policy is here for all to see, and Split at the Root strikes a healthy balance between critical exposé, call to action and a tribute to that most important human quality: kindness.”
Among the migrant women featured in the documentary is Rosayra Pablo Cruz, a native of Guatemala. In Split at the Root, she recounts how her husband was assassinated, she was shot twice, and she and her two boys became the object of continued death threats. She fled north with her sons, leaving two daughters behind. When she crossed into the U.S. from Mexico, ICE agents detained her in Arizona and shipped her boys to the other side of the country.
“I was separated from my two sons immediately upon arriving in the United States, and we were separated for 81 days,” Cruz told Deadline. “They went to a foster care facility in New York.”
IFT helped her get her sons back.
Split at the Root is produced by Linda Goldstein Knowlton through Ladylike Films, Miranda Bailey through Cold Iron Pictures and Marti Noxon and Maria Grasso through Tiny Pyro Productions. Rosario Dawson serves as executive producer; Zak Kilberg of Social Construct and Jason Beck of The Film Arcade also serve as EPs, along with Regina Solorzano, Amanda Marshall and co-executive producer Lana Parrilla.
The acquisition was negotiated by Gordon Bobb of Del, Shaw, Moonves, Tanaka, Finkelstein, and Lezcano on behalf of Array, ICM Partners, CAA Media Finance and UTA Independent Film on behalf of Split at the Root.