San Francisco filmmaker Richard Levien says he can relate to issues surrounding immigration, the topic of his new movie "Collisions." (Courtesy photo)

‘Collisions’ among IndieFest’s most timely, topical films

San Francisco writer-director Richard Levien’s “Collisions,” a sensitively portrayed, moving story about an immigrant family in San Francisco and the travails they experience as a result of their government-forced separation, stands out as a particularly real-life, timely selection in the 21st San Francisco IndieFest.

“I’m from New Zealand originally and I’m now a U.S. citizen living in San Francisco’s Mission district. As an immigrant, I share the story of all immigrants — that of moving away from home in search of a better life, in search of opportunity, so I’m drawn very strongly to stories of immigration,” says Levien, whose 2009 immigrant-centered short “Immersion” won Best Bay Area honors at the San Francisco International Film Festival.

“Collisions,” which screens Feb. 9 at the Roxie, starts in an arresting fashion as Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents storm the Mission apartment where Yoana Bautista, a Mexican immigrant (Ana de la Reguera of telenovelas and film fame) lives with her 12-year-old daughter Itan (Izabella Alvarez) and 6-year-old son Neto (Jason Garcia).

The authorities take Yoana away, leaving the children stunned, worried that their mom may be deported.

A Child Protection Services representative then brings the children to their seemingly shady, carefree uncle, Evencio (Jesse Garcia, who was excellent in “Quinceañera”) who lives in Oakland and is less than thrilled to be saddled with the responsibility.

In “Collisions,” which is based on a story by Malín Alegría, the resourceful Itan eventually locates Yoana and convinces a reluctant Evencio, whom she obviously disdains, to take her and Neto (who adores his uncle) on the road in his truck to find their mother.

Their urgent, plucky, at times disrupted, journey is one of interpersonal discovery, and conveys a palpable portrait of tough issues many immigrants face in the U.S., especially in the current political environment.

“The film highlights numerous human rights violations in our immigration system, all of which existed before the Trump administration, and have since become, if anything, worse,” Levien says.

Since the premiere of “Collisions” at the Mill Valley Film Festival in October, immigration has gone beyond being a hot-button news item to becoming a catalyst behind the U.S. government shutdown, but the film retells, essentially, a personal, authentic story.

“Many people may be familiar with immigration from the headlines,” Levien says. “Watching the film, they will experience, viscerally, a mother separated from her children. They will see the incredibly difficult human choices at the heart of all immigration stories. Others may be intimately familiar with the experiences portrayed in the film, but have rarely seen them reflected back in a realistic, unsentimental way.”

San Francisco Independent Film Festival
Where: Roxie, 3117 16th St., S.F.; Victoria, 2961 16th St., S.F.
When: Jan. 30 to Feb 14
Tickets: $13 to $18 most single programs; $45 to $250 for passes
Contact: (415) 863-1087, (415) 863-7576,
Note: “Collisions” screens at 5 p.m. Feb. 9 at the Roxie.

San Francisco filmmaker Richard Levien says he can relate to issues surrounding immigration, the topic of his new movie “Collisions.” (Courtesy photo)

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