Is there a particular documentary film or filmmaker that had a major influence on your career?
What motivated you to make this film?
Perception of immigrants and refugees in western world
Please tell us what camera(s) you shot with primarily – and any other special equipment that you used and why you used it.
Panasonic 5G. Small 4K camera for intimate settings. We didn’t want to interfere with children’s education.
Please tell us about any special styles or techniques that you used during the production of your film to help tell your story.
We had a small crew of 3 and used minimal equipment to make sure we are invisible to capture the life inside the school. My approach to this story and my work, in general, has always been the same, I call it “breaking the lens between you and your subjects” meaning building a relationship that makes people comfortable to talk to you and tell their story from the heart. Which requires lots of time and effort. After observing the school and understanding how things work, I started following Ahmed and Ruba separately. Once they were comfortable with us we started getting into their personal story which led us to create the picture we have now.
How did your story evolve from day one, to the very last day in post? Is your story what you thought it would be?
Definitely every story changes from the first day to the last day in the post. We just wanted to show a glimpse of teenage refugee Ahmed and his sister Ruba at a school to show how similar we are and how much hope these kids bring with them from war torn lands.
Please describe the most rewarding experience you had while making this film.
Getting to know Ahmed and Ruba. I believe every project that I make the most rewarding thing is having a good relationship with the subjects and having them allow me to tell their stories.
What advice can you give to other impact filmmakers?
Be in the moment and let the story guide you, do not try to control the story.
What’s your favorite part about the filmmaking process and why?
Being on set because life is greater than fiction. Things you have never thought will happen in front of your eyes.
What’s the one item you always take with you when working out in the field and why?
I always carry a small camera with me in case I need to capture a moment.
Please share a personal story about your experience making this film.
Prior to making this film, I was introduced to Thomas Jefferson Newcomers Academy, I walked into a classroom where I was introduced to students who are passionate about art and filmmaking, at that moment Ahmed was the shining star who kept asking me questions about filmmaking and acting. I knew he had a special energy. Later when we went back to school he naturally became the subject of the film.
Can you describe any obstacles you encountered in making your film and/or in your distribution/exhibition efforts?
As many documentary projects, I think the most difficult obstacle was trying to find funds to finish the project. I struggled for months to finish the project.
What do you want audiences to take away from your film?
There is no expectation in how people should feel about our film however I wanted to make sure that the audience understands that emotions transcend borders. We are all migrants and newcomers every day in our lives. We change neighborhoods, cities, countries, and continents. We move constantly and we realize how similar we are. How we all share the same dreams and struggles. No one wants to leave their loved ones and home behind unless it’s the only survival choice that they have left with. It can happen to any of us. As we are witnessing it right now with this global pandemic where the world’s heartbeat became one. Worrying about the same thing and resisting on the other hand. Perhaps we can learn a lesson from it because none of the refugees left their comfort for becoming our target of humiliation and racism.
Please list key points that should be covered in a post-screening discussion:
Today our society has been divided more than ever. People are choosing sides and calling each other as “enemy”. What I would suggest is that we build bridges with “others”. Having an open conversation with everyone no matter what their background, the political and religious view is.
Please provide information on any recent developments regarding the issue or subjects of the film. How have things changed or not changed?
The immigration policies are still shallow in the United States and in many other countries. We have to justify the question of what we have done to the newcomers’ homeland in our powers so now they are here. Ahmed and Ruba both have graduated from high school and they are both in community college pursuing their dreams and education.
What opportunities are available for those interested in getting further involved?
The one opportunity, that is definitely there is to get in touch with Thomas Jefferson Newcomers Academy and similar schools to ask them what their needs are and also become a tutor for children in need of help.
Please provide any additional resources (websites, links to additional videos, forms, articles, etc.):
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