2019 Sundance Docs in Focus: THE INFILTRATORS

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Lisa Rinzler

Alex Rivera and Cristina Ibarra construct a hybrid docufiction project detailing the mission of undocumented youth to be detained by Border Patrol.

Festival Section:

Sundance Program Description:

Without warning, Claudio Rojas is detained by ICE officials outside his Florida home. He is transferred to the Broward Transitional Center, a detention facility used as a holding space for imminent deportations. Terrified of never seeing him again, Claudio’s family contacts the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA), a group of activist Dreamers known for stopping deportations. Believing that no one is free as long as one is in detention, NIYA enlists Marco Saavedra to self-deport with the hopes of gaining access to the detention center and impeding Claudio’s expulsion. Once inside, Marco discovers a complex for-profit institution housing hundreds of multinational immigrants, all imprisoned without trial.

Directors Cristina Ibarra (in her Sundance debut) and Alex Rivera (SLEEP DEALER, 2008 Sundance Film Festival) design a hybrid cinematic language, combining familiar documentary form and scripted narrative to map an uncharted domain: inside an Obama-era immigration detention system. Based on true events, THE INFILTRATORS is both a suspenseful account of a high-stakes mission and an emotionally charged portrait of visionary youth fighting for their community.

Some Background:

  • Alex Rivera

    Rivera’s fiction debut, SLEEP DEALER, premiered at Sundance, where it picked up two awards. This project has received support from the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program, and participated in the Catalyst Forum, Documentary Edit and Story Lab and the Women’s Financing Intensive.


  • Cristina Ibarra

    Ibarra makes her Sundance debut with this, her third feature. She is a past Sundance Institute Women Filmmakers fellow.


  • Darren Dean

    Dean also produced 2019 fiction feature PREMATURE, in NEXT. He previously produced Sundance fiction alumni KINYARWANDA and TANGERINE, and executive produced Sean Baker’s follow-up, THE FLORIDA PROJECT.

  • Daniel J Chalfen

    Peabody and duPont-winning and Emmy-nominated Naked Edge Films co-founder Chalfen is also executive producer of fellow 2019 Sundance title ALWAYS IN SEASON, in the US Documentary Competition – their first projects at Sundance. He is a past Sundance Creative Producing Doc Lab creative advisor.

Associate Producer:

  • Moses Israel

    This marks the first Sundance credit for Israel.


  • Sarah Garrahan

    This is also Garrahan’s first Sundance project.

Executive Producers:

  • Steve Cohen
    Past Sundance docs:

    306 HOLLYWOOD (2018)
    TROPHY (2017)

    Cohen is an attorney and the co-founder and board chair of Chicago Media Project. He has helped finance documentary projects as a member of Impact Partners.

  • Paula Froehle
    Past Sundance docs:


    Froehle is the co-founder and CEO of Chicago Media Project, which facilitates philanthropic support of social impact documentaries.

  • Lagralane Group
    Past Sundance docs:

    THIS IS HOME (2018)
    UNREST (2017)
    ICARUS (2017)

    Husband and wife actors and philanthropists Yvonne Huff Lee and Jason Delane Lee are co-founders of the Lagralane Group, a financing and development company.

  • Ken Nolan and Christina Nolan
    Combined past Sundance docs:


    The Nolans have also been creative advisors to Catalyst Forum. Ken Nolan is on the board of the Chicago Media Project.

  • Ken Pelletier
    Past Sundance docs:


    Pelletier is an entrepreneur and board member of Chicago Media Project. He was the founding CTO of Groupon. Pelletier is also an executive producer of fellow 2019 Sundance title ONE CHILD NATION, in the US Documentary Competition.

  • Katy Drake Bettner
    Past Sundance docs:

    DARK MONEY (2018)

    Bettner is a philanthropist, co-founder of gaming studio Playful, and co-founder with Amy Redford of media company BetRed Stories. She is also an executive producer of 2019 Documentary Premieres title RAISE HELL: THE LIFE & TIMES OF MOLLY IVINS, as well as ALWAYS IN SEASON. Bettner also is a member of the Women at Sundance leadership council.

  • Jim Butterworth

    Butterworth is the co-founder of Naked Edge Films. He also executive produced ALWAYS IN SEASON.

Co-Executive Producers:

  • Nancy Blachman
    Past Sundance docs:

    THE BAD KIDS (2016)

    Blachman is a mathematician, computer scientist, and philanthropist.

  • Lou Buglioli and Natalie Orfalea

    Buglioli is the chairman/CEO of financial services and tech company Viewpointe. Orfalea is the founder and president of the Natalie Orfalea Foundation and a member of Impact Partners and Chicago Media Project. They have been investors in numerous past Sundance titles.

  • David Ortiz

    This is Ortiz’s first Sundance credit.

  • Robina Riccitiello

    Riccitiello is a San Francisco-based journalist and storyteller for Million Person Project. This is also her first Sundance project.


  • Aldo Velasco

    Velasco previously wrote/directed/cut the Sundance fiction short CRABGRASS MANIFESTO.


  • Randy Redroad

    Redroad has brought several fiction projects to Sundance as a writer, director, or editor, including his feature THE DOE BOY.

Why You Should Watch:
Rivera and Ibarra received support from the Tribeca Film Institute’s Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund as they were developing this project, which has become a hybrid. Telling a true story, the filmmakers incorporate documentary footage within their primarily dramatized account of Dreamer resistance.

More Info:
For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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