They All Have The Same Purpose…HIGHER EDUCATION

October 18, 2019 0 By Ronny Jaskolski

– Hi, I’m Robert Chang. The Associate Producer
of America ReFramed. I’d like to say hi to
filmmakers Anayansi Prado and Heather Courtney. Thank you for joining us
today for this conversation. So, can you tell us
about yourselves? – My name is Anayansi Prado. I’m one of the co-directors
and producers for The Unafraid. I have been making documentaries for close to 20 years now. The majority of
my work focuses on documenting the
immigrant experience. Particularly that of
undocumented immigrants. – Hi, I’m Heather Courtney. I am also a co-director and
producer of The Unafraid. I have about 20
years of experience making documentary films
as a director and producer. Sometimes camera person,
sometimes editor. The issues I’ve covered
have ranged from immigration to teenage
soldiers from my small hometown in rural Michigan. This is my first collaboration
as a co-director. – Can you tell us a little
bit about your film? – So, The Unafraid is a
feature-length documentary in which we follow the lives
of three documented students in the state of Georgia. – [Heather] Sylvia,
Alejandro and Aldo. Over the course of four years we followed them as they
fought for their right to education as part as
the movement in Georgia, but we also followed their day
to day struggles as teenagers trying to figure out what
to do with their lives, and we also followed the
struggles and the triumphs of their families and
their community as well. – Our original idea for
the film was actually to follow dreamers
in different states. For example, Heather
had done some research and contacted people
in her home state of Michigan, also in Texas. I contacted folks here in
LA and in other states, and then I went to do a
presentation of one of my films at Wellesley College and
the professor who invited me told me about
Freedom University. I don’t know if
you’re aware of SB44, it’s a bill introduced
for instate tuition, for DACA recipients
such as yourself and we just want
to try and lobby and call your representative. – Freedom University at
the time was very much an underground movement and she knew the
professors who had found that the Freedom
University, that program and I was immediately
fascinated by it. In our research we hadn’t
come across the fact that there were
states like Georgia who were banning
undocumented student from even applying to school, and so we became very interested and it wasn’t a month,
we were down in Georgia, meeting the students. – [Robert] And how did you meet the three main
subjects of your film? Alejandro, Sylvia and Aldo? – Well, like Anayansi said, we met them, initially two
of them, Sylvia and Alejandro on our very first
trip to Georgia, which we thought
was just gonna be a research and development trip, but then we just
started filming. They were willing to be filmed and they were just amazing. Alejandro we met through the
contacts at Freedom University. We went to his house
the very first day that we arrived in Georgia
and within 20 minutes we were interviewing him. And we have this hour
long interview with him and we kinda just knew
from that interview, like, this is somebody that
we wanna keep following. And then Sylvia we met
on that trip as well through Freedom University. We went to her house
initially and talked to her and did an interview with her. We also met her mom
and her two sisters that day as well, and
they were also willing to be on camera that first day. We were very lucky
in that regard to meet them right away that way because it often doesn’t happen and you have to
look for a long time to find the right people. And then Aldo we met on
our second trip there, when we went on a trip
with Freedom University. – It was really important for us to find characters that
were complimenting, but yet contrasting,
but at the same time they were very different. You had Aldo who’s
an only child, but then you have Sylvia
who has this large family, then you have Sylvia
having different issues as a female compared
to the boys. So it was important for
us to find these nuances that told different
aspects of their stories, but also knowing that they
all had the same purpose and they were all willing
to access higher education. – So, what is your
citizenship status? You have a work permit,
but your status- – It’s unlawful. – Unlawful citizen.
– Yeah. – So you’re undocumented,
which means that you will have
international fees assessed and you would not be eligible
for federal assistance because of the type
of student you are. – So, I was just wondering
also more particularly about how did you work out in
terms of the collaboration? ‘Cause I’m also very interested
in sort of the things that you felt like you were
able to accomplish together that you may not have been able to accomplish by yourselves,
and so I was wondering if there are specific examples, or were there creative
differences that you had over the course of the last
six years of your project. – It was very useful
to work in a team in that both Heather
and I have a style in which we don’t
really use a large crew and we try not to
be very invasive, so having somebody else
to help with the camera or to help with
directing was very useful and we probably spent the
first year of production doing trips together. So, neither Heather
or I live in Georgia, so we will travel
together to go film, but after a year we actually
thought that it will be good to switch out and
so we will take turns going down to
Georgia and filming, and so that was really
helpful in that one of us could be concentrating
on fundraising or working on the ground
while the other one is out shooting. And then in terms of
creative differences, I’m not quite sure
that we ever had some major creative differences. I think we both came in
with this large vision that we both agreed with 100%. We will probably
have disagreements on
tiny, little details, but in terms of the
vision of the film and what we wanted for it to say and the style and the
approach that we wanted, which was to be personal, to go beyond the issues,
to show family, community. That had always
been in place for us and we were always on the
same page in those terms. – I think what also really
helped us get through some of the more
challenging moments or when we had
disagreements was the fact that we were very
deeply committed to
the people in the film and to the issues in the
film and so that commitment really helped get us
through any kind of smaller disagreements we had. – I bring to you Senate Bill 44 and this provides that
students who have what’s called a DACA, those students
would be considered for instate tuition. – Given the current
political climate, how do you see this film is
adding to the conversation? – Well, one thing in
all of my filmmaking, what I try to do is
have the audience member or the viewer, see in
the people on the screen something of themselves. Make a connection with them
no matter how different their lives may be, and so
by delving into the personal day to day lives of
Alejandro, Sylvia and Aldo and their families,
I really hope that an audience
member or a viewer will make connection with them, will care about
them and will care about what happens to them. So that’s one thing
that I definitely want audiences to take away from it. – Yes, I have a very
similar style to Heather in that I want people
to find themselves in that mother,
or that daughter, or that grandmother and
connect on that human level. I think also what I would
like for people to take away is to see the tangible realities of what the laws
that are in place do in peoples’ lives and how they either improve, like in
the case of DACA you can see how having DACA improves
the lives of the students, but then you can
also see how laws like not being able to
get a driver’s license if you’re undocumented,
or not having… Not qualifying for
instate tuition, how that can diminish
your quality of life and how it affects people, not
just on an emotional level, but it affects them also like
mentally and emotionally. And so you get to see
firsthand what are the impact of the decisions
that are being made that are either
helping or persecuting the undocumented immigrant
community in the U.S. today. – [Alejandro] Up,
up with education! – [All] Down, down
with segregation! – [Alejandro] Up,
up with education! – [All] Down, down
with segregation! (speaking Spanish) – Undocumented! – [All] Unafraid! – [Alejandro] Undocumented! – [All] Unafraid! – Undocumented! – [All] Unafraid – It’s been really,
really insightful to hear from the both of you. – Thank you. This was fun. – All right, thanks so much. (calming music)