Genre: Documentary Feature
Running Time: 90 minutes
Release Year: 2014
Production Company: Sabana Grande Productions, LLC
Contact: Alexandra Hidalgo, director/producer/editor
Vanishing Borders tells the story of four immigrant women living in New York City, who through their work, relationships, and activism are transforming not only their lives but also the lives of those around them. The film places a human, female face on the often abstract issue of immigration, inviting audiences to experience the profound happiness, pain, and sense of discovery that comes from leaving one’s home behind and settling in a new country.
Immigration is in my blood. I was born in Caracas, Venezuela to parents who were the children of the kind of people whose trajectory through the world would make the most intrepid of travelers dizzy, and this at a time when boats, not planes, were the mode of transatlantic transportation and letters were the only sensible way to communicate with those left behind. My first prolonged taste of a different culture came when I was two-and-a-half years old and we moved to New York City for a year. It wasn’t until I was sixteen, when my toddler English had long been forgotten, that we picked up our lives and continued on the peripatetic path laid out by our ancestors by moving to Dayton, Ohio. In that exotic (to me) Midwestern town my identity blossomed and cracked with an ecstatic and painful reinvention that I’m still untangling more than two decades later.
As personal and unique as it felt to my teenage self to redefine who I was in a completely new cultural environment, it is of course a very common experience for people in our increasingly globalized world. And yet, as I watched immigrants portrayed in big and small screens, it was hard to find stories that reflected the complexity and depth of my own and my family’s experiences. While it was tempting to blame the void on the Hollywood system and corporate media, it was even more tempting to make the kind of film I wanted to see. And so, with limited filmmaking experience and a lot of passion for the story I was trying to tell, I set out to make a feature documentary about the lives of immigrant women.
Much like a Venezuelan girl landing in the Dayton airport, I found myself once again trying to blindly make my way through a new world as I worked on Vanishing Borders. The professional—albeit independent—filmmaking world is as intricate and complex as a country, with its own rules, culture, language, and unspoken customs that I’ve learned to navigate in the last four years with the help of my spectacular crew and with institutional support from Purdue University, where I was working on my Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition when I began this journey back in 2009, and from Michigan State University, where I am now an assistant professor of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures.
Yatna, Daphnie, Melainie, and Teboho have been my constant companions for four years as I sought to convey their essence and the essence of their immigrant stories in 90 minutes. I have spent hundreds of hours in the company of their voices and faces in Final Cut Pro, trying to capture the poignancy and complexity of their stories to move, inspire, and hopefully transform the audience in the way that these stories have transformed me. There is something magnetic and unique about them in person, something courageous and contagious that brings to life the best aspects of being a woman and an immigrant. Here’s hoping that Vanishing Borders portrays that power because then I will have certainly made the movie I so desperately wanted to see that I decided to make it myself.