Independent filmmaker Kevin Dalvi believes that the full story of immigration in America is not told often enough.
"We often focus just on undocumented immigrants," he said. "But there are lots of immigrants who come here legally, who pay taxes and follow the rules, and they're still afraid that they could be deported at any time. I thought it would be worthwhile to tell that part of the story."
Dalvi, a native of India and former Chicagoan who now lives in New York, did so in his comic drama, "Promise Land," which he screened Sunday at the Hollywood Palms Cinema in Naperville.
The screening was organized in part by Naperville resident Saily Joshi, an advocate for independent film and filmmaking. Joshi told the nearly full house Sunday that she was delighted to see such support for a small independent movie.
"The fact that you all came out on a cold Sunday morning is a testament to how much you care about this kind of film," she said.
"Promise Land" tells three separate stories about South Asian immigrants living in present-day Chicago. One story involves a lesbian couple, the second focuses on a middle-class family and the third a group of beleaguered workers at an IT firm.
The flaws of America's immigration system play a part in each story, but Dalvi said he took pains to avoid political heavy-handedness or finger-pointing. The story about the IT workers shows what happens when an immigrant takes advantage of other immigrants, Dalvi pointed out.
"It's not just a one-way view," he said during a short interview before the screening. "We tried to be balanced, and we told these stories with a great deal of humor. Honestly, I don't look at this as a political film."
After the screening, Dalvi and some of the actors participated in a short question-and-answer session.
Dalvi said during the Q-and-A that when working on the script, he made sure to inject positive notes into the stories, even in the cases where the characters' lives were changed for the worse.
"Immigration is such a depressing topic," he said. "In this film we tried to be realistic about the struggles that people face, but we wanted to offer some hope, too."
A number of people in the audience, many of whom were immigrants themselves, praised the realism and the humor in the film. One audience member asked Dalvi for his thoughts about American's immigration system today.
"Honestly, I think that the discussion is about people," he said. "As long as you don't stop caring, we can move forward."
Dalvi, along with his cast of Chicago-area actors and crew, shot "Promise Land" in Chicago in just 16 days. It is Dalvi's first film; he said his next project, which will reunite him with some of the "Promise Land" cast, will be a suspense thriller that will debut on Netflix in 2015.
To find out more about "Promise Land" and learn about future screenings, visit the film's website, promiselandfilm.com.