by Dora Leticia
People’s Television Studio
Washington Heights, New York
LE: Aside from what we already know from the brief bio on the People’s Television website, what can you tell us about yourself?
NB: Um, okay, what, what can I tell you about myself…? Well, I live in Washington Heights, in upper Manhattan, New York. I’ve lived here for eight years. I grew up when I was very young in Los Angeles, but, I’ve lived in New York City for 12 years now. I’m 23 and went to high school here and consider myself a real New Yorker. But, I’m also a real internationalist and I consider myself a citizen of the world. I don’t believe in the borders that divide us, either the physical, cultural, sexual, gender, orientation wise, that divide different people.
LE: You directed the documentary, La Americana, at a time when the current immigration crisis in the United States is a big debate. What inspired you to take on this project?
NB: I really think that my interest in technology, international news, journalism and my interest in film-making comes from my belief in the power that images and stories have to connect people. I think that now that we’re entering well into the 21st century, which we all imagined to be a brighter, peaceful, global community future – we are seeing that it hasn’t turned out that way yet.
I think that it’s essential…I’ve always felt like my calling was to try to use images and story-telling to bring people together. On the one hand we have this incredible technology and we have free international calling…we have everything you could imagine that would make people stop hating, or, not caring about people across the world from them.
I think that we really need to employ that technology and use it to help people to start thinking of each other as human beings first, before we think of each other as Jewish, Christian, Muslim, American, French, Guatemalan, Nigerian, or Mexican.
That’s what inspires my work in general. It’s the idea of creating a more global community and through that a more peaceful and just world.
LE: How does La Americana tie into your idea of a global community?
NB: La American is a story of an undocumented immigrant from Bolivia who faces this incredible dilemma of being with her daughter who is sick in Bolivia , or , supporting her from New York, where she can earn enough to take care of her daughters crippling medical condition.
The story is illustrative of, I think, millions of peoples stories and not only in the United States, but, a kind of migrant dilemma in many places, where laws forbid for families to travel together, and, danger of border crossing and restrictive legislation against immigrants forces these family divisions.
I thought by examining the kind of injustice and the hardships that are caused by these immigration policies, that I could really cast an even bigger question.
One, not just about immigration, which is of course a very difficult dilemma to solve, and not one that I propose a specific answer to in the film. But, I wanted to address the issues of – who deserves to be where?
What does it mean to be from somewhere when you need to be somewhere else? What does it mean that this woman is Bolivian and I’m an American?
Is being born somewhere make you that thing? Is it who we are intrinsically that’s more important, or, is it our personalities? Is it the values that we share that bind a community as opposed to the place of birth?
I hope that “through the lens of the immigration crisis”, we could explore some of these bigger issues of our natural rights as human beings.
LE: How has the community responded to La Americana? The people who have actually been to the advanced screenings…
NB: Yeah, we’ve had two previous screenings before our actual premiere, so only a few select communities have had a chance to see the film so far, in it’s final state. The reaction has so far been overwhelmingly positive.
We screened it for an entirely packed audience at the Diversity Center in Jackson Heights, which is the heart of the Bolivian community in New York.
One of the protagonist in the film, Jorge, the main character’s boyfriend, was there in the audience. Him and I spoke to an audience of at least 150 people, who really came forward and told us afterwards that they felt like this was their story as well.
And, it wasn’t just immigrants from Bolivia who said that, but, immigrants from Central America, from all over the Americas who said you know, this is what we went through, this is what my brother went through, this is what my cousin, my wife, my daughter, my mother…
People were really positive. They felt that not only did La American portray their story, but, that it was a chance for them to show their kids, who were born here, what a privilege it is to be born here…what their ancestors, or what their fathers had done, what their parents had done, coming illegally, what sacrifices they’ve made….
They also thought that it was really important that their story be articulated to non-immigrant communities, who they feel don’t necessarily know all of the hardships that immigrants have to go through.
LE: It is a great documentary. I attended that screening and although I was born in the United States, I can understand the experiences depicted in the film because my parents had similar hardships. You captured the essence of what it is like for many, the stories may not be exactly the same, but, the true nature of that experience, the struggle…trying to make a better life. Do you have any new projects aside from promoting the film? What is your vision for the future?
NB: I run, along with John M, a documentary film production company called People’s Television, we’re basically in Upper Manhattan, in Inwood.
We just finished our first documentary feature called La Americana, which of course, we’ve just been discussing. We are also in the process of a documentary short called The Grey Movie, which tells the story of four revolutionaries in New York City, who in response to the outbreak of war in Iraq, try everything possible to stop it.
We also have two other projects in the conception phase. One is another immigration story, which is about people fighting to help immigrants. The other, is another border story, about the border between India and Pakistan, over Kashmir.
We are also currently seeking ways to really get La Americana out to the world and make as much of an impact as we can, this can help get financing for our future projects.
LE: Good luck and thank you for bringing this story to the screen. We wish the best for Carmen and her daughter.