From Films

Exploring Freedom Through Immigration in ‘Vanishing Borders’

Alexandra Hidalgo is a documentary filmmaker, an assistant professor of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures at Michigan State University, and the co-founder and editor-in-chief of agnès films, an online community of women filmmakers that seeks to support and foster the work of women behind the camera. image credit – Aidan Tyson

I am fascinated by the ways that freedom and immigration intersect. I grew up in Venezuela but immigrated to Dayton, Ohio when I was 16. In my new home, I experienced how liberating yet constricting the immigrant experience can be. I had no past in Dayton, no history. I was able to choose what I loved best about myself and craft a new story. And yet, I was limited by my lack of knowledge about the nuances of American culture and the intricate hurdles of expressing myself in a tongue that wasn’t my own. I had a blank canvas upon which to invent myself but only a few colours available to me. As the years went by, however, I acquired more and more shades and hues as the American culture became an integral part of who I am.

When I was trying to decide what to make my first feature documentary about, the immigrant experience made the most sense because it had shaped who I am and because immigrants are an often maligned and misunderstood population. I wanted to tell a story that would humanize immigrants for viewers. The resulting film, Vanishing Borders, explores the immigrant experiences of four women—Teboho Moja, Melainie Rogers, Daphnie Sicre, and Yatna Vakharia—who came from various places around the world to settle in New York City. The more I got to know these women and their spectacular stories, the more clear it became to me that they are bringing richness and complexity to those who interact with them in their new home.

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