The subject hits close to home

Director Wayne Kramer's new ensemble film, "Crossing Over," has been compared to "Crash," the Oscar-winning exploration of race relations in L.A. that also featured a high-profile cast, but Kramer said his focus is much more on immigration itself and how the morass of U.S. laws play out in the City of Angels.

"I've lived every step of the way in the screenplay," says Kramer, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in South Africa. In his native country, he had no future as a filmmaker, he says, so "it's vastly important if you get over to this country to succeed in the immigration process.

He wants to show "how the system works, who are the people caught up in it, and why, at times, they are forced to do fraudulent things" to stay here, he says.

"The average American doesn't understand how hard it is to get status in America," he says. "Unless you marry into it, it's very tough. The laws have gotten tougher and tougher, the penalties for being illegal more unforgiving."

Opening Aug. 22, the movie stars Harrison Ford, Sean Penn, Ashley Judd and Ray Liotta. The cast and crew spent weeks filming in the grittier areas of Los Angeles County, including the morgue at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach, the Echo nightclub in Echo Park and the old Fred C. Nelles detention school for boys in Whittier. Other scenes with Ford were shot in Tijuana.

"A big part of the film is to show a side of Los Angeles we don't usually see a lot of," says production designer Toby Corbett.

"We're getting really good performances," the director says. "Harrison Ford was really terrific and energized. It's kind of like seeing the old Harrison Ford as a cop. It's like John Book [from the 1985 film "Witness"] 20 years later. A very sympathetic performance."

-- Robert W. Welkos

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