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  • 09Nov2016
  • Reaching across the aisle: real stories of immigration in Wall of Complacency
    Art & Music
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  • 09Nov2016
  • Reaching across the aisle: real stories of immigration in Wall of Complacency
    Art & Music

“Oh my god, Abby, I can’t believe you’re from Texas. It has such a horrible reputation!”

 

It wasn’t an uncommon sentiment by her friends in Seattle and Abby Hagan, 22, was compelled to defend her hometown of Houston, Texas. It was 2015 and anti-refugee remarks were making headlines following attacks in San Bernardino and Paris.

 

It inspired her to set on a journey not just as a filmographer, but also as a native Texan, to learn more about the experiences of immigrants and refugees. Centreing the project in her hometown only seemed right.

 

“I felt a need to defend my city and show that Houston is incredibly multicultural and super diverse,” says Abby. “In my view, Houston is a microcosm of the nation is a as a whole. You can't really define it as blue or red.”

 

Her 14 some hours of footage with city officials, refugee resettlement agencies, non-profits and, most significantly, immigrants and refugees themselves eventually collated into the documentary Wall of Complacency.

Abby made a point not make the film “pro-immigration” nor political. On a larger scale, her end goal is to expose viewers to more stories and put human faces on an otherwise contentious subject.

 

“With the whole ‘building a wall’, Brexit and everything that's going on, I really think it's important to show other people's personal experiences,” says Abby. I don't want to turn off anyone that maybe leans more to the Republican side.”

 

Most interviewees spoke positively about their experiences in the US, yet their backgrounds may stun viewers. One interviewee from Bhutan, Bhakti Bhandari, recounted the 36 years he spent in solitary confinement.

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“I like to think I'm very well read and informed and keep up with current events but it doesn't really click until you're listening to somebody tell their own story,” says Abby.

 

The power of these stories is why she’s venturing into a new art: animation. Abby and her animator Lisa Jaech are crowd funding on IndieGoGo to supplement and better visualise the stories shared by immigrants and refugees using animation.

 

It’s an impressive project for someone who only first left the US four years ago. Why is this film important in this year, and in this bitter election cycle?

 

“I want people to have an opportunity to expose themselves to more stories,” says Abby. “Some people have some tragic backgrounds that when you use these big terms like ‘immigrants’ or ‘refugees’, you kind of forget about the personal experiences.”

  

Wall of Complacency's expected release is March 2017. You can support the film on IndieGoGo. Interested in Abby’s other work? Start chatting here on the Piazza.

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Simona
wow ..what a day to be reading this ... thank you Abby
over a year ago
Claire
So powerful, have shared on Facebook...am crying :)
over a year ago

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