Uniting America at Malcolm X College

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The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights is hosting the second annual Illinois Immigrant Integration Summit at Malcolm X College on February 4th, from 9AM – 1PM. Under the theme “Education is Power,” they’ll be hosting workshops on citizenship, voter registration and how to keep families together in the face of deportation.

As part of the summit, a group AmeriCorp Fellows have been charged with the task of unifying communities though “increased dialogue, new friendships, community service and through sharing food and culture.” When I heard that they were using art to build bridges and bring people together, I offered up a few of my films and they agreed to let me screen them as part of the Uniting America exhibit.

The films that will screen are Familia Bom Brill, Binsieta and Shabuya. All of these docs portray elements of the immigrant experience and they all stem from my family. Looking at those titles together makes me wonder why it’s so hard to name something in English.

Familia Bom Brill focuses on the love story between Diana and I but it carries the scars that develop when someone leaves their home country at a young age and themes of family reunification. This is still a sneak preview as I recently began working with a composer named Kristin Cotts and reached out to sound designers from Columbia to beef up the audio. I also met photographer, Juan Manuel Fernandez, while picking up film at CSW and he agreed to let me use one of his images for my promotional art. Here’s the image

Bisnieta is a film that I completed around 2009 for Documentary 1 with Bruce Sheridan at Columbia. It’s a family story that spans over 4 generations and questions the value of tradition in American culture. This was my first attempt at portraying my family as we went through the painful journey of what we thought would be our family’s only quinceañera. The film will give Kylie Kozlowski an idea of what she’s in for.

Shabuya was my introduction into activism and documentary. The project started because I was curious about all of the work that my parents were doing around the topic of immigration. When I told my Mother that I was looking for something to film, she jumped at the opportunity to invite me on the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride and we ended going on a 8 day bus ride to Washington D.C. with a bunch of workers, students and organizers.

My life hasn’t been the same since and the people that I met on that voyage have continued to inspire me in the years since. This seems like the appropriate time to dust the film off and remind us all how far we’ve come. I haven’t seen the film since I started attending Columbia and we had one of our first Viva Doc meetings so it’ll be nice to see how much has changed in my work.

It also seems like an appropriate time to start My Dream Project.

Photo from Marissa Graciosa

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