Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, I was disconnected from the community and cultures my parents were forced to leave as children in Mexico and Palestine. They never returned to our ancestral homes, which alienated me from ever feeling connected to either ethnic group.
Traces of Home is a 56-minute documentary that intimately explores the complexity of my biracial identity, as well as the emotional trauma of returning home.
As a child, Hosni's parents owned a successful business in Safad, Palestine, built an expansive home on top of a mountain, and often visited family and friends that lived only a few blocks away. In 1948, when Hosni was four years old, his family was forced to flee by Eastern European settlers, taking only what they could carry on their 12-hour walk to Lebanon. He was never allowed to return, and after living in Spain for college, he ended up moving to the United States.
Iza was born in Mexico City in 1954, her father a well-known tailor for celebrities like Cantinflas. He provided his children with love and abundance: a giant ranch house, two maids, and endless gifts. However, he concealed a dark secret only visible in his home. Iza’s father was a troubled alcoholic, severely abusing his wife whenever he got drunk. Fearing for her life, Iza’s mother decided to take her children and escape Mexico, hiding from her violent husband who set out to kill her.
During Hosni’s welcome party on his first day in Chicago, he fell in love with Iza, his wife of now forty years. Despite major cultural differences and financial setbacks, they decided to build their home and family together. My brother and I were born, in a mostly-white suburb of Chicago, never growing up with Spanish, Arabic, or meeting any relatives from either culture.
Though normalized violence against those deemed as “aliens” has persisted throughout American history, the Latino and Arab communities are current targets of racist and hateful acts. This violence, as well as the ideology underlying it, needs to be met with personal accounts of how immigrants serve as the foundation of the United States. I had always wanted to understand where my parents came from, but after the atrocities fueled by the 2016 election, I knew we needed to return. Together.
While planning these trips to Mexico and Palestine to find my parents homes, viewers are immersed in our own family dynamics and the effects of trauma on our strained relationships together.
We completed the first half of production in Palestine in March 2019, spending one month finding my father’s home. Approximately 50% of our footage is already captured; your contribution will help us complete production in Mexico to find my mother's home in January 2020, as well as assist with the transition into post-production.
Our trip to Mexico expenses will include: airfare, gas, car rental, accommodations, food, and rental equipment. Crew costs include a local fixer, DP, and a sound recordist.
Our DP in Mexico is Monica Wise, a filmmaker and video journalist focusing on women, identity, immigration and human rights in Mexico. Her work has been featured in the Guardian, the Atlantic, TeleSUR, AJ+, PBS, History Now, and NBC Latino. Wise worked as a producer and cinematographer on "The New Deciders," a PBS documentary special. She will lead field production and shooting in Mexico City.
We have built an advisory board of over 30 organizations internationally working on issues that affect both Arab and Latinx communities such as border militarization, deportations, and family separations. These organizations include Mujeres Latinas en Accion, the Institute for Middle East Understanding, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, Organized Communities Against Deportations, and Stop the Wall Movement to design the guides and lead such crucial discussions.
Now-December 2019: Fundraising for Mexico. I will spend four months to secure funding for production in Mexico through grants, a Kickstarter campaign, and in-person fundraiser.
January 2020: Production in Mexico. I will interview my family in Mexico City and film the journey to find my mother’s home.
February 2020: Production in US. I will film my family’s responses and the aftermath of returning home after such an experience.
February 2020 - October 2020: Post Production.
November 2020: Film Festival Release
Risks and challenges
Being first-generation American and a woman of color, filmmaking isn’t just an artistic passion for me, but also a concrete way for me to support and advocate for my community. However, breaking into the documentary film industry has been difficult to navigate regarding access and funding. With only 8% of directors being women, and even less women of color, it is an uphill battle to ensure equity in the mainstream markets among major broadcast networks.
Making this deeply personal film about my family comes with its own challenges as well. As I learned more about the places my parents once called home, the theme of my own lost cultural identity became vital to include in the final film. I am aware that doing this within the filmmaking process naturally collapses public/private boundaries; I continue to try to navigate capturing my parents’ and my own experiences while making sure to respect individual needs for space, time, and healing.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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