New York proudly calls itself the ultimate city for immigration. More than a third of all current residents are foreign born, the largest number in the city’s history, and — in opposition to unremitting xenophobic policies and rhetoric from the Trump administration — the consensus in NYC calls for further support of diversity and inclusion. Still, have our images, stories, and understanding, our imaginary of the city, kept up with the city’s current complexity? Fellows were challenged to connect to individuals, families, and communities whose pathways to NYC are recent, whose circumstances reflect the contemporary moment, and whose presence broaden and update a picture of life in the city.
USA • 2018 • 23 mins
Vinod, Gurpreet and Akash, born and raised within a hundred miles of each other in Punjab (India), arrived in the United States of America a decade apart. But in 2018, their lives converged at a taxi school in Jackson Heights. Yellow attempts to weave together three distinct immigration experiences and the circumstances that led them to AJ’s Yellow Taxi School.
NARMIN’S BIRTHDAY is a film about three Azerbaijani women: Narmin, a teenager seeking freedom, Ismat, Narmin’s traditional grandmother, and Mina, Narmin’s peacemaking mother. The film centers around Narmin planning her sixteenth birthday party to be as American as possible, while Ismat observes in both dismay and curiosity.
As Beijing activist Wang Zhongxia makes his case for political asylum in New York City, past and present are superimposed and years of persecution, surveillance, and paranoia unfold. Two cities coalesce into a single stage where personal and political histories reveal the traumas of a young and inexperienced dissident, stepping into and against the powers of authoritarian politics.
Co-directors—Casey Carter and Colleen Cassingham
Co-editors—Casey Carter and Colleen Cassingham
Director of Photography—Casey Carter
Additional Cinematography—Colleen Cassingham and Wang Zhongxia
Titles and Graphics—Magdalena Orellana
Score—Erik Finsrud and Yuri Tavares
KASSAB FAMILY DENTISTRY
Ansh Vohra and Daniel Sitts
USA • 2018 • 18 mins
Kassab Family Dentistry is a mixed-media documentary about brothers Aelyas and Wadea Kassab, who were among the first Syrian immigrants in the US, as they navigate life in a new country and become small-town dentists.
Co-directors—Ansh Vohra & Daniel Sitts
Associate Director, Producer, Composer—Lydia Cornett
I'LL WRAP MY WORDS IN PAPER BAGS
USA • 2018 • 15 mins
“Why are you recording us?”, “Why are you all green?”,”The price is better, it doesn’t necessarily mean the orange is better.”, “This is creepy.”
I’ll wrap my words in paper bags is a mute green screen suit wandering Chinatown as an empty surface waiting to be filled.
SANDWICHED is a short documentary film about Abdul-Motaleb, who lives in two realities at the same time: on the surface, he’s the friendly neighborhood bodega man, but he’s also a refugee from Yemen’s civil war whose wife and children are still stuck back home.
Music Consultation—Yuri Tavares
Music by—Karim Douaidy
Yuri Tavares and Amanda Macchia
USA • 2018 • 8 mins
PERPETUAL CARE is a film that proposes a poetic/musical experience investigating how funeral home and cemetery employees deal with death and life in such a diverse place as NY, and how respect for these notions takes place in such a delicate moment.
¡Hay Coro! explores the complexities of manhood through the story of Dos Flakos, a Bronx-based Dominican DJ duo. The film captures the hustle for the dream, the profound bond between two friends, and the community, hardship, and passion that birthed them.
Direction—Emile Klein and Patrick Offenheiser
Director of Photography—Patrick Offenheiser
2nd Camera and Sound—Beata Calinska and Livia Vonaesch
2018 COLLABORATIVE STUDIO
Lydia Cornett is a documentary video producer based in New York City.
Her work explores themes of art, disability, and human resilience. She has produced and edited video content for Slate Magazine, The Washington Post, Penguin Random House, and Princeton University. Lydia has a BA in History and Film/Video from Princeton University and is a classically trained violinist.
Amanda Macchia is an Italian-Canadian video artist & curator currently based in New York City. Her work has screened in programs globally, including at the Anthology Film Archives (New York, 2015), DWF (Los Angeles, 2015), and the Coups de Coeur (Cannes, 2017). She curates the IDF Film Festival in Toronto, New York & Berlin annually.
She began her studies in 2008, taking the Image and Sound Design degree at the University of Buenos Aires. In 2014, she moves to Madrid and begins to study Documentary Filmmaking at ECAM, where she shoots a short experimental film, Conversaciones/Conversations, and her final graduation project, You Are A Child Like Me. She has also taken several courses on photography and attended to Central Saint Martin’s Graphic Design Summer School. In parallel, she’s been working on independent works, mainly graphic and audiovisual. She’s part of an Argentinian independent editorial focused on photography, RIO, and also member of an audiovisual collective based in Madrid, Nuberu Bagu.
Ansh Vohra is a non-fiction filmmaker and photographer based in New Delhi (India), brought up on regular doses of spicy Punjabi food, stories from his grandmother and films across genres and formats. He has spent the last couple of years utilising his skill set as a visual storyteller documenting stories that examine arts, culture, education and personal histories aside from running The Pind Collective, a collaborative art project that attempts to bridge cultural and artistic gaps between India and Pakistan.
Daniel Sitts is a media maker and illustrator from Croton-on-Hudson, NY. After studying film at Ithaca College, Daniel was awarded an Emerging Artist Fellowship at the Jacob Burns Media Arts Lab. He then worked as a StoryCorps National Facilitator, recording hundreds of audio interviews across the U.S. After two years on the road, Daniel joined StoryCorps’ animation team to produce shorts based on those interviews. Currently, he is working on freelance documentary projects in Brooklyn, NY.
YURI PIRES TAVARES
Having worked in several areas of audiovisual, nowadays Yuri acts as photographer and filmmaker. At 17 he had his first experience with production: while participating in an exchange program in Australia, he did voluntary work in a theater as part of the team of the production Annie.
Years later he’d be back to the production world, acting as producer in several projects such as EMESP, Campos do Jordão International Winter Festival, São Paulo State Youth Orchestra, Guri Project, Municipal Theater, among others.
After some years working as producer, he decided to move into film and photography, having worked in several projects, among which the most significant were at the Campos do Jordão Winter Festival and at the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra (OSESP). After a year of studies in Italy Yuri currently works as a photographer and filmmaker. He is co-creator/director/producer of the documentary musical series “Ao Vivo no Casarão”.
Colleen graduated from Northwestern University in 2016, where she majored in Middle East and North African Studies. She has studied and filmed in Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia, and has also filmed in Palestine. Her latest film, a portrait of a recently-resettled Syrian refugee family in Chicago, premiered as an Editor’s Pick on the Atlantic is part of POV’s 2017 season premiere. Since moving to NYC last year, she has worked with POV and Jigsaw Productions. She currently works for Jessica Devaney’s production company Multitude Films, and freelances as an editor and documentary screener.
Jenny is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker passionate about social justice and feminist issues. After working in editorial and online education for tech companies like TED and Skillshare, she traded in her 9-to-5 to pursue freelance work in filmmaking and podcasting. Her specialty is telling meaningful stories that shift perspectives, and creating lasting visual impressions. She was selected as a Brooklyn Public Media Fellow in 2016 and teaches camera, documentary, and podcast courses to high school and adult students. Her documentary work has shown at international film festivals. She has a master’s degree in public policy from The New School, which she attended on a Peace Corps Fellowship, and a degree in video production from Ohio University.
Omar Al-Fotihi is a Yemeni producer and filmmaker based in New York City. Over the past three years, he has produced numerous short-form video stories for Human Rights Watch, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that reports on the human rights conditions in more than 90 countries around the world. His work has been published in several news outlets, displayed at press conferences, and used in advocacy meeting.
Casey is an interdisciplinary designer and media artist whose photographic works have been published and exhibited internationally. He holds a Master of Architecture from the University of Michigan and Bachelors degrees in both photography and physics from Middle Tennessee State University. His previous documentary works explore social, political, and historical tensions manifest in public space – attempting equally to articulate the social relations of bodies, as the vulnerability and dignity of the people who inhabit them.
Rebeca Huntt is an Afro-Latina activist, filmmaker, and native-New Yorker. Her most recent project, BEBA–a feature-length hybrid documentary which she co-directed and wrote–is currently in post-production. BEBA raised over $40,000 on Kickstarter and was covered by Elle Magazine, The Fader, and Remezcla. In July 2017, Huntt and her film team were selected for Kickstarter’s Creators-in-Residence program. In addition, she has worked as a community organizer for Black Lives Matter initiatives throughout New York City. She received her BA from Bard College in 2012.
WHAT IS THE UNIONDOCS COLLABORATIVE STUDIO?
The UnionDocs Collaborative Studio (CoLAB) is a program for a select group of media artists from the US and abroad. Based in one of NYC’s most exciting neighborhoods, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, CoLAB offers a platform for exploring contemporary approaches to the documentary arts and a process for developing an innovative collaborative project. The program consists of weekly production meetings, seminars, screenings and other public programs, along with regular masterclasses and critiques with visiting artists.