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Nearly 3,000 families with children were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2018. Torn Apart: Separated at the Border offers first-person stories of how the immigration crisis has affected two of those mothers and their young children, who were separated from each other for months. Directed and produced by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Ellen Goosenberg Kent (Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1) and Talos Films, this intimate 40-minute documentary followed those families for nine months after they fled life-threatening conditions in their home countries to seek asylum in the United States.

After escaping violence that claimed the lives of her husband and two uncles in Honduras, María was detained and separated from her 10-year-old son Alex for 70 days. Vilma fled from her abusive husband in Guatemala and was placed in ICE detention, while her 11-year-old daughter, Yeisvi, was put into foster care for eight months. The film tracks both women as they navigate a complicated system, fight orders of deportation and try to find their children, who were placed thousands of miles away. With the help of friends and family, pro bono lawyers and community volunteers, Vilma and María eventually reunite with Yeisvi and Alex, yet both pairs await uncertain futures as their asylum claims remain pending.

The film illuminates the laborious journey migrant families – including many women and children escaping violence and abuse – make to reach the U.S., only to be detained indefinitely and have their children transported to facilities hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away. Providing a human context to a fraught political issue, the documentary short reveals how arduous reunification is after separation for asylum seekers. Families detained at the border in 2018 were separated for an average of three months and some have yet to be reunited.

Ellen Goosenberg Kent’s previous HBO projects include the Oscar-winning Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1; the Emmy-nominated Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq; Wartorn and One Nation Under Dog, both of which earned Television Academy Honors.

Torn Apart: Separated at the Border is directed and produced by Ellen Goosenberg Kent; edited by Luis Álvarez y Álvarez; producer, Xochitl Dorsey; music by Tyler Strickland. For Talos Films: executive producers, Elli Hakami, Julian P. Hobbs. For HBO: executive producers, Nancy Abraham, Lisa Heller, supervising producer, Sara Rodriguez.