Project VoiceScape is a partnership with Adobe Youth Voice
s, PBS and POV to mentor today’s best young documentary filmmakers. Keep up with news from the filmmakers and their mentors on the Project VoiceScape blog.
When Alejandra Gama decided to make a documentary about illegal immigration, she discovered one obstacle to completing her work that she didn’t anticipate: fear. Not her own fear, but the fear experienced by the people whose stories she set out to tell.
It was difficult for Alejandra to find families willing to go on camera because so many of them were afraid of the reprisals they could face if their undocumented status were to be discovered. She also ran into difficulties finding people — even natural-born U.S. citizens — willing to record their true opinions on the subject, out of fear of social ostracism or fallout with their employers.
“I was truly amazed that, in a country where freedom of speech and expression are not just a privilege but a right, people really did seem afraid to speak their mind, merely because of the controversy of the topic,” said Alejandra.
In Right To Be An American, for which Alejandra received a Project VoiceScape young filmmaker grant, she focuses on an overlooked aspect of the immigration debate: the experience of young people who were born in the United States to undocumented immigrants. According to the 14th Amendment, these children are fully legal U.S. citizens, but their lives are still affected by the pressures of their parents’ illegal status.
Adding to the pressure is the recent initiative in Alejandra’s home state of Arizona, which seeks to revoke 14th Amendment rights to children without at least one parent already holding citizenship.
Alejandra wondered, in a debate mostly framed by facts and statistics, was anyone paying attention to what these young people were going through?
With the help of mentor Almudena Carracedo (Emmy award-winner Made in L.A.), Alejandra has been refining her story, sound and editing. “From the very beginning, this experience has been very enlightening,” said Alejandra. Almudena mostly helped her “in unraveling the tangled ideas I had for the documentary.”
Alejandra hopes to paint a well-rounded picture of the lives of these children — their hopes, their fears, their ambitions and obstacles — but she understands that the audience for her documentary may come with its own prejudices.
“What I see, others may not. However, I hope it is something positive.”