“Underwater Dreams” to premiere in Atlanta as part of film series

A film about a team of Mexican immigrant students winning a national underwater robotics competition is scheduled to premiere in Atlanta next week.

Called “Underwater Dreams,” the film focuses on a group of teenagers living without legal status in Phoenix. With the help of their high school science teachers, they win a NASA-sponsored robotics competition against college teams in 2004, including one from engineering powerhouse Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The movie is part of a film series the Atlanta-based Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation recently announced. The philanthropic organization — Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank is its chairman — says the series is aimed at addressing “societal issues relevant to the city of Atlanta.”

“Underwater Dreams” points out many states bar students without legal status in the U.S. from paying in-state college tuition rates, which can be several thousand dollars below out-of-state rates. Georgia is among those states.

A similar policy in Arizona cut short the college education of Cristian Arcega, one of the students featured in “Underwater Dreams.” He is now seeking private funding to return to college and is trying to start his own consumer electronics business.

Asked what he wants the film’s viewers to know, Arcega said: “You have to look at this anti-immigration issue and see that it is affecting real kids who are not that different from their own. It could just as well have been their family a few generations ago.”

Opponents say taxpayer-funded benefits should be reserved for those who have legal status in the U.S. Supporters say it makes sense to offer the lower in-state tuition rates to Georgia students who could contribute more to the state’s economy after boosting their skills in college.

The public is invited to attend Sept. 30 film screening for free from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Landmark Theaters Midtown Art Cinema, 931 Monroe Drive in Atlanta. Seating is limited and advance registration is required. Register here. And see the film’s trailer here.

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