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Movie Review

9500 Liberty

A look at demagogues’ fearful power: ‘9500 Liberty’ tells how bias burned county

“9500 Liberty,’’ a documentary about the recent bitter struggle over illegal immigration in Virginia’s Prince William County could be studied in film classes as a model of advocacy journalism. Filmmakers Annabel Park and Eric Byler are obviously on one side of the debate, but they give the other side its say, try to understand where these people are coming from, and watch as their opponents hang themselves with their own ropes. When Park and Byler briefly become part of the story — they posted sections of the film-in-progress on YouTube — they acknowledge as much and move on.

Best of all, they recognize and show us the bigger drama unfolding here. “9500 Liberty’’ is not just about the clash of immigrant Hispanics and white nativists, but about what happens when a community’s civic machinery is hijacked by ideologues and extremists — and what exactly it takes for the silent center to push back.

The film additionally makes very clear how few people you need to start a mob. In Prince William County in 2007, it took two: a rabble-rousing right-wing blogger named Greg Letiecq and Corey Stewart, the grandstanding chairman of the Board of County Supervisors.

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