The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute kicked off its new, diversity-oriented film viewing series "Movies that Matter" with the 2016 film "Beyond Borders" last week.
The documentary, which focused on hardships, contributions and goals held by the undocumented immigrant community, showed to a capacity crowd in the Cornhusker Bank community room on Thursday.
Nancy Comer, co-chairman of the diversity committee, said these events are for the community to learn from others' experiences.
"We're about learning and talking to those that do not look like us," Comer said. "The people who come to the events drive the conversation, and we have to keep the conversation going with people unlike us. We would like people from other races and ethnicity to teach our classes. It is about education, period."
The film was followed by a panel discussion, featuring immigration lawyers, DACA recipients, and University of Nebraska-Lincoln alumni who are now activists in the field.
Valeria Rodriguez was one of the speakers at the event, and said storytelling is one of the best ways to change opinions about immigration.
"I came here to share my story, because I believe in the importance of storytelling," said Rodriguez, an immigrant from Mexico who graduated from UNL and is now the national campus coordinator for Define American chapter programs at universities across the country. "I hope my story can move individuals by shifting how they view immigrants in today's political climate."
Event organizer Patricia Saldana said each of the selected documentaries focuses on a different people group, with the next film being 'The Boy Who Started the Syrian War," the story of Mouaqiya Syasneh.
Saldana said the group deciding the films to be screened had discussed a "diversity movie night" last spring, and decided to focus on topical documentary films.
"We came up with the idea of documentary films, that were topical, current affairs," Saldana said. "The current issues, the ones that are probably on the forefront of people's minds."
Saldana said she had done extensive research to find a wide range of topics, mostly from independent filmmakers.
"We wanted a broad range of topical issues," Saldana said. "Immigration is a huge topic. It is what took Donald Trump to the forefront of the 2016 election, so we knew we wanted to cover it."
Middle Eastern, African American and Native American issues will also be the focus of upcoming movies.
Many DACA recipients, Saldana said, often fear speaking publicly about issues because of their immigration status.
"We're in tough times, where these issues can bring law enforcement to your door, for very minor, incidental things. There is fear in the undocumented communities about speaking out," Saldana said.
Saldana said she brought 25 films to the committee to narrow down to the four being screened, and that these films help break the misconceptions regarding undocumented immigrants.
"I think everybody should be aware of the issues involving these communities," Saldana said. "We are hearing these issues from those it impacts the most, like our panelists tonight. They have stories to tell."