Also a founder of the IFF, Patti has created and operated several businesses and spearheaded various volunteer projects. She was a direct marketing consultant for many Washington publishers and others. Patti served as a Peace Corps Volunteer to Thailand 1962-64. She believes in the power of a small group of committed individuals to bring about change in attitudes and policies.

Kathleen Madigan

Kathleen is a management consultant and executive coach who has spent her career helping organizations and their leaders accomplish goals. She has been a volunteer docent at several DC art museums and served on the board of a number of non profit organizations. Kathleen is an eager student of film aesthetics and history and believes strongly in film as a powerful influence on social change.

We are a group of unpaid volunteers working year-round to produce an annual film festival bringing stories of immigrants and refugees to Capital area audiences.

 The Immigration Film Festival is under the wing of the Washington Ethical Society, a nonprofit, humanistic religious congregation. Since it serves as the Festival’s fiscal sponsor, all donations are 100% tax free and dedicated exclusively to the Festival.​




Aldo Bello - Chair
Aldo Bello is an Emmy award-winning documentary film director, television producer and co-owner of Mind & Media, Inc, a strategic communications and media company located in Alexandria, VA. Since 1994, Mind & Media has been providing comprehensive media strategy and full production services to help federal government, commercial and nonprofit clients solve large-scale and complex communication challenges.  

Welcome to the 4th year of the Immigration Film Fest (IFF), held in the greater Washington DC area from October to December 2017.
This year, we are elated to announce that, in partnership with the International Cinema Series, we are joining a consortium of other organizations under the unifying umbrella, Films Across Borders: Stories of Migration, thereby amplifying the mission of our annual film festival, bringing as many stories of immigrants and refugees as possible to Capital area audiences.
From October to December of 2017, the IFF will be partnering with the AFI Silver Theater and Cultural Center, American University’s School of Communication and College of Arts and Sciences, Cultural Services of the French Embassy, DC LaborFest, the Goethe-Institut Washington, the Mexican Cultural Institute, the National Gallery of Art, and SPAIN arts & culture to bring the best narrative and documentary films on immigration to the Washington, DC area.
More than ever, immigration is front-page news and is one of the most critical issues confronting us globally and nationally and therefore, more than ever, we need the artists and filmmakers who are delving into this complex issue to educate and inspire citizens from all walks of life. We will be screening films by visionary filmmakers that may not be immediately recognized in more traditional venues. Through the series, we will provide exposure for worthy films and talented filmmakers in the Washington DC Metro area, where policies and discussions about immigration are held by decision-makers and where there is a wide interest in unique, creative films.
Selected films will enjoy wide visibility through the concerted promotion of each of the organizations of the consortium, and the venues in which the films will be showcased. We aim to have discussion groups and Q&A to follow each screening, encouraging further engagement of the audience with the creative team and immigration experts, on the issues raised by the films.
We are a grassroots organization, with volunteers dedicated to bringing the power of film to explore issues of immigration. IFF brings new audiences to films about people who migrate seeking new lives for themselves and future generations, many escaping perils brought about from conditions outside their control.
Through the power and artistry of film, we seek to highlight the human, intimate, side of the people involved, to humanize and inform the public debate in a world of people displaced by war, extreme poverty, lack of opportunity, arbitrary political boundaries and often dysfunctional or abusive political systems. We appreciate your interest and encourage you to be part of this year’s series.

Our goal is to put faces on immigrants and tell the stories of global immigration through film, the most popular of media. We do this not only to entertain but also to inform and inspire action. We live in an interconnected web of being. Recognizing this, we aim to motivate viewers to take action to correct the injustices that lead to migration and the dislocations that result from immigration.

Charlotte Jones Carroll

Charlotte, a retired international development specialist who has lived in Latin America, has been involved in the past decade with nonprofits that support the health, early education and cultural needs of immigrants. She also has connections to local universities. As a long-time film lover, she is convinced of the power of film to reach the hearts of audience members and inspire them to action.

Patti Absher, Co-chair, Marketing/PR



The Immigration Film Fest through the power of film seeks to attract, inform and inspire adults and youth of Greater Washington to seek justice for immigrants and refugees.

An immigrant himself from Chile, Rod has his own business in design and construction. He is familiar with the immigrant experience and sees up close the difficulties immigrants face trying to work and maintain a family under unfavorable immigration policies, especially those working in the construction industry.

Meet the TEAM

Showcase outstanding dramatic features and documentaries from around the world. Involve diverse audiences in post-film discussions and plant seeds for progressive action at the local, state, Federal and international levels.

Mary Harris
Mary is a social investor and active non-profit director. Since 1994, she has been a Director and Trustee of the National Wildlife Federation and other socially responsible corporations. Descended from “undocumented” immigrants, she believes in the power of story-telling to activate advocacy and social change. 

The USA has a moral and ethical responsibility to treat immigrants and refugees fairly. As citizens of the world’s leading democracy, we must strive to build communities that serve all our newcomers.



Rod Brana, Program Director

January 2013  - Washington Ethical Society (WES) members pass a resolution seeking to further immigration policy change.

March 2013 - Sign in front of WES building goes up proclaiming, “WES says YES to a path to citizenship for 11 million”

June 2013  - Members agree to launch the first Greater Washington Immigration Film Festival.

October 2013 - WES Steering Committee seeks and finds partners at local Unitarian congregations. Search for grants is underway. Dates are set for first festival to take place in 2014.

October 2014 - First Immigration Film Festival screens 13 films at 12 locations in the DC Metro area. More than 900 people came to see the films.

December 2014 - Evaluation study based on 41% of filmgoers providing feedback showed a majority of the respondents endorsed the festival calling it valuable on many levels.

October 2015 - The second Immigration Film Festival expands to include movies from all over the world and draws a greater number of filmgoers, some 1600, to 15 feature films and two shorts programs. All films were followed by discussions with film directors, immigration experts and journalists. Local and national media coverage was outstanding.

December 2015 - The executive team reflects on successes and missteps to draw up a plan for the third Immigration Film Festival to take place Oct 20 over four days. To build awareness and traffic more films to be screened in downtown DC.

February 2016 - Contract signed for Saturday night Gala and Screening at George Washington University.

October 2016 - Some 1200 filmgoers turned out for screenings of 22 documentaries, dramatic features and shorts representing immigration stories from the US and 18 additional countries. Filmmakers gathered to share their insights and experiences with the audiences.  A panel of experts explored many of the myths surrounding immigrants and refugees.