Tag Archives: documentary

Immigration documentary on Flushing woman to be screened in LIC

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Image courtesy of No Le Digas A Nadie

After years of not speaking out, Angy Rivera is ready to share her story with Queens viewers during the Long Island City screening of the documentary about her life.

Rivera, who is from Flushing, was formerly an undocumented immigrant for 19 years and as a child was constantly told to keep quiet about many things in her life. However, she decided to speak up and share her experiences through the documentary “No Le Digas A Nadie,” translated to “Don’t Tell Anyone.”

The film’s first Queens screening is scheduled for Sept. 2 at CUNY Law School located at 2 Court Square in Long Island City from 5 to 8 p.m. Admission is free.

“I think each time it’s very awkward for me and I get very nervous,” Rivera said. “It’s always nice to see the different crowd, and how they receive it. Everyone takes something different away from the film.”

No Le Digas A Nadie” — which is filmmaker Mikaela Shwer’s debut as an independent director and titled after Rivera’s poem “Rusty Chain” — follows Rivera through her everyday life and focuses on the relationship she holds with her mother, who immigrated to the U.S. with her.

The documentary also shadows Rivera through her experiences as an undocumented immigrant and activist, as she applies for deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) and obtains a visa.

In 2010, the Colombian native started the first national undocumented online youth advice column called “Ask Angy.”

Along with the issue of being an undocumented immigrant, the film also surrounds Rivera’s opening up about being a victim of sexual assault.

“Scenes that come up still impact me and sometimes I catch myself crying during the screenings,” Rivera said.

Even though every time the film is shown she says she feels nervous, Rivera hopes that by sharing her story others, who might find themselves in the same situation will begin to speak out.

She also added that even though some people might not have experienced what she did, she also hopes the film will start conversations on the subject.

“Some people will come up to me and share experiences as well and that’s something that always impacts me,” Rivera said. “I think in immigrant communities we struggle a lot on talking about sexual assault and it needs to happen because it’s happening in our communities and if we’re not talking about it, people don’t have a space to feel supported and feel safe.”

The film is also set to have its national television premiere on the PBS series “POV” on Sept. 21.

To register for the Sept. 2 LIC’s screening, click here. For more information and a schedule on more screenings of the film, visit www.nodigasfilm.com.


Astoria veteran featured in documentary honoring Army cameramen

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Don Fedynak/ Gallery by Jim Saller, 221st Signal Company

For one Astoria veteran, the time has finally arrived when he, along with hundreds of other soldiers, will be recognized for putting their lives on the line to capture the Vietnam War on camera.

Don Fedynak, an Astoria resident for over 40 years who served on the 221st Signal Company during the Vietnam War, is featured in the documentary “Unseen Warriors: Army Combat Cameramen in the Vietnam War.”

The four-hour-long film, created by Ellen Holzman and Meredith Vezina of Traditions Military Videos in California, focuses on the stories of combat cameramen who documented the Vietnam War and showcases their photos and films, many of which have never before been seen by the public.

The idea of the film surfaced after Holzman said they realized that for years they had been obtaining raw film footage from the National Archives, but they were never able to credit the cameramen themselves.

“We’re kind of getting to a point that we are looking ahead and we realized that all this time we had never really given credit to individual combat cameraman who took that footage and risked their lives to do that,” Holzman said. “We felt that it was time to give back.”

“Unseen Warriors” tells the stories of soldiers from different groups of Army combat cameramen such as the Department of the Army Special Photo Office, the 69th Signal Photo Platoon, and the 221st Signal Company. These soldiers took film footage on the field in Vietnam which would later be sent back to the United States for members of the chain of command to view.

Don Fedynak

Don Fedynak

Fedynak, who served in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970 and received a Bronze Star for meritorious service, said his group was excited when they were contacted to be a part of the documentary because they had always felt they never got the recognition they deserved.

“Cameramen, in particular Army cameramen, never got credit for what they shot,” Fedynak said. “Cameramen are screen hogs. We like to see our names in lights, but in the military we never did.”

Before being drafted into the Army, Fedynak worked as an assistant film editor and volunteered to part of the 221st Signal Company because he knew they were responsible for capturing what was taking place overseas.

“People always see pictures of World War II and Korea and someone should be wondering, ‘Someone had to be there taking those shots,’” Fedynak said. “It was quite a unique experience. This was like another job, but I was wearing a green suit at the time and occasionally people shot at you.”

In one chapter of the documentary, which is made up of 12 chapters, Don was interviewed on the 1969 attack on the Vietnam headquarters of the 221st Signal Company.

“It’s kind of emotional. It’s not just the glory and recognition; it’s honoring those guys who some gave the ultimate sacrifice. In a sense we can honor them as well,” Fedynak said about the documentary.

This Saturday members of the 221st Signal Company will come together in Washington, D.C., for a reunion and ceremony honoring fallen soldiers.

For more information or to purchase the DVD set of “Unseen Warriors,” visit militaryvideo.com or call 800-277-1977.


Bayside kids to tell senior citizens’ stories through documentaries

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Angy Altamirano

The art of filmmaking is bridging the gap between the generations, as students at one Bayside middle school prepare to tell the real life stories of a group of local senior citizens.

Eighth-graders in Jason Spagnuoli’s Moving Image class at Nathaniel Hawthorne M.S. 74 have begun working with members of the CCNS Bayside Senior Center to reenact stories told to them by the senior citizens through documentaries.

This is the first time students are taking on such a task as the Moving Image class is currently in its first year at the school.

“[The seniors] have lived such a long and valuable life,” Spagnuoli said. “To me we’re empowering these seniors to say, ‘Look, your life does matter.’”

Spagnuoli also added that the experience allows the students, who were at first very skeptical about the project, to step away from their everyday mindset and for a moment take the time to listen.

The creative process started on Thursday morning when the seniors visited the students at the school located at 61-15 Oceania St., and began the conversation.

Throughout the morning the seven seniors, who were divided into groups with students, shared their stories, and then narrowed down what they would like their documentaries to focus on.

Story topics included finding a second love after the passing of a husband, traveling abroad, family history, and in one case the dramatic story of making it out of a concentration camp.

“It was pretty interesting. I heard a lot of facts and stories from their life and it opened my mind to do things and try new stuff,” said 13-year-old Myles Robinson.

For 14-year-old Luljete “Lulu” Mujaj, meeting the seniors opened the door to a new experience. She was paired off with a senior citizen who decided to focus her documentary on the moment she was set free from a concentration camp she was put in for three years during the Holocaust.

“It was really touching because all I’ve really known of concentration camps was from a textbook, videos and museums, but when you actually hear someone who lived during that it was really hard,” Mujaj said.

Now that the students have their story ideas for the films, they will work with the drama class at the middle school to cast the characters in the documentaries. The senior citizens will then return to the school in a week and be filmed telling their stories.

The overall process of creating the documentary, which includes editing the interviews into the reenactments and featuring music picked by the seniors, is expected to take about three to four weeks.

According to Spagnuoli, the documentaries are expected to be completed by the end of May with the hope of screening a few of them during the school’s film festival on June 3.


Flushing woman shares story in new immigration documentary

| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of No Le Digas A Nadie Film

Since she was a young child, Angy Rivera has been told to keep quiet about many things in her life. But now she is sharing her story, hoping others can step out of the shadows.

Rivera is a 23-year-old college student from Flushing who was formerly an undocumented immigrant for 19 years and whose experiences for the past two years are the subject behind a new documentary called “No Le Digas A Nadie,” translated to “Don’t Tell Anyone.”

The film’s director, Mikaela Shwer, said she first read about the Colombian native, who in 2010 started the first national undocumented online youth advice column called “Ask Angy,”  in New York Magazine.

Interested in her story, Shwer met with Rivera and began building a relationship that led to Shwer filming the 23-year-old’s story in her debut as an independent film director.

“I know what the story is about and the ending, but it’s different watching it,” Rivera said about being in the film. “It was a healing process for me, opening up about things, exploring feelings that I have hidden away. It’s a different form of therapy.”

The film follows Rivera, the oldest of four children, through her everyday life hanging out with friends and her family. It focuses on the relationship she has with her mother, who immigrated to the United States with her.

The cameras also follow Rivera through her life as an undocumented immigrant and activist, as she applies for deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) and obtains a visa.


“The strength they all have as a community makes you reevaluate all the privileges that we have,” said Shwer about having shared time with Rivera and others in the immigrant community. “It makes you really appreciate things and also be frustrated. People really need to be frustrated in order for things to change.”

Although Rivera has opened up through her advice column and the activist work she has done as a core member of the nonprofit New York State Youth Leadership Council, the first volunteer undocumented youth and membership led organization, she is nervous about how some people will react to her story.

“[The film] is way different and a lot more personal,” Rivera said. “That’s always good but it’s also bad because it opens to judgment.”

Along with the issue of being an undocumented immigrant, the film also surrounds Rivera’s opening up of being a victim of sexual assault. The title of the film comes from a poem Rivera wrote called “Rusty Chains”  in which she describes how since she was a young girl, she has been told not to tell anyone about what was going on in her life.

“It’s the same thing like our immigration status, for a long time many of us felt alone, similarly when you’re assaulted you feel alone. It’s a life of silence,” Rivera said. “I hope this film will start a new conversation.”

Both Shwer and Rivera hope the documentary will help others who are in the same situations to step out and share their stories. They also hope the film will continue to bring up a lot more questions, bring community members together and inspire others to get involved.

“I hope people can see that we are a family, they are everything to me,” Rivera said. “Remove immigration status – it’s a real family. Maybe this will put a human face to this issue.”

“No Le Digas A Nadie” is in the post-production phase and is expected to be finished by the end of this year. It is also in the process of finding a medium in which to be shown, with hopes of being featured in a spring or summer film festival in 2015.

For more information visit www.nodigasfilm.com.


Jamaica Bay movie is nearing completion

| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photo via  Jamaica Bay Lives Flickr

Jamaica Bay is on the verge of getting its own little taste of stardom as a new documentary about the body of water and its surrounding habitats is officially in post-production.

The documentary film titled “Jamaica Bay” was started about three years ago. It will cover the bay’s history, environmental issues and local residents’ way of life, according to Dan Hendrick, producer of the film.

“The overarching theme of the film is that right now, Jamaica Bay is a good national park but it has the potential to be great one,” Hendrick said. “We hope that this film will inspire people.”

Hendrick and his team started his work on the film in August 2011. He said he wants to highlight how the bay has made such a remarkable comeback from where it was 30 years ago. They have over 100 hours of film of the bay including shots from before, during and after it was devastated by Superstorm Sandy.

“People care about the bay more than ever,” Hendrick said. “The pollution has subsided from where it was 30 years ago but there is still a lot of work to do.”
The team hopes to get the documentary out to both local TV channels and movie theaters by spring of 2015.

Due to limits on public television, the television cut will be less than an hour long, but the producers hope for the full film to run up to 90 minutes.

To learn more about the film check out jamaicabaylives.com.


Flushing resident to co-produce Asian rapper documentary

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Jaeki Cho

To Flushing resident Jaeki Cho, rap lyrics were his textbooks.

Born in Korea, Cho immigrated to Elmhurst as a child. He didn’t speak English well, but listening to hip-hop music on media outlets, such as Hot 97 and BET’s 106 & Park, helped with the language adjustment, while inspiring his love of rap.

His attraction to hip-hop ballooned as he grew older.Eventually, he started writing about rap and urban music, most recently as an editor for XXL magazine.

Like Cho, people of various ethnicities besides African-Americans are engrossed in hip-hop, even as performers. Although the genre is heavily dominated by blacks, rappers of other cultures have broken mainstream American and international hip-hop charts, but Asians have yet to have a champion in the U.S. Cho is co-producing a documentary entitled “Bad Rap,” aiming to explain why Asian rappers have not gained that attention.

“For the international spectrum, hip hop has become more global than other [genres],” Cho said. “If you go to Korea, you are going to see Korean rappers; if you go to France, you’ll see French rappers. In terms of how it is in America, there are limitations for rappers that aren’t African-American.”

The film will be directed and produced by hip-hop writer Salima Koroma, who originally reached out to Cho as a student at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. The pair talked about the field of Asian musicians, which progressed to the idea of the film.

In a year and a half, the pair has completed a 40-minute feature and teasers. They have raised more than $14,100, as of press time, on crowdfunding site indiegogo.com, and are seeking to raise $25,000 to complete a full 70-minute documentary, which they hope to premiere later this year in New York.

The film features four Asian rappers, including Queens’ own Awkwafina and Rekstizzy, on the brink of exploding in mainstream hip-hop, but for various reasons haven’t become household names. Cho said the movie will explain the complexity of being an Asian rapper through the characters, as well as their individual struggles. He believes it could get the conversation started on a large scale.

“I think this film could shed light on a lot of things,” Cho said. “If it does well commercially, I’m sure the artists in the film will get recognition from more people.”

He added, “The kids that are going to be watching this of Asian descent … they are probably going to feel, ‘This is the same kind of issue that I face.’”



Queens filmmaker memorializes uncle’s World War II experiences

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

Queens resident and military veteran Joe Reveman’s experiences during World War II are forever memorialized in a biographical film depicting his life as an active member of the United States Armed Forces.

Filming began almost two years ago when Reveman’s nephew, Bryant Falk, proposed the idea for a documentary. Falk always enjoyed hearing his uncle’s stories depicting his days in the Army. Having previous experience as a commercial film director, Falk saw this as a great chance to make his first documentary-style movie.

Reveman was drafted to be a pilot in the Air Force of the United States Army in 1943

“I was young, 18. I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t have much of a choice,” said Reveman. “When I got to England I was apprehensive, but I was glad to help at the end of the war.”

As the war continued, Reveman became a radio operator onboard B17 Bomber planes. Their mission was to obliterate the German air and railroad supply.

He flew 24 missions over Germany. His last mission took place on Friday, April 13, 1945.

“It’s a date that will live in infamy in my mind,” said Reveman.

Flying in formation, the planes prepared to release their bombs over Germany. One plane’s bomb release malfunctioned and several bombs dropped at the same time, striking each other and exploding. Reveman’s plane lost control.

The pilot regained control of the plane and they began to gradually descend over the border between England and German-occupied territory. Unsure of which side they would touch down on, the crew prepared for a wheels-up landing.

But as the wheels touched ground, they struck a slab of marble, slicing the plane in half.

When Reveman regained consciousness, he crawled from the crushed aluminum.

“I saw blue skies,” he said.

Trucks appeared in the distance. Still unsure of his location, Reveman hoped the approaching vehicles were those of the Allied Forces. A Red Cross ambulance with a United States insignia pulled up next to the destroyed plane.

“Everyone breathed a little easier,” said Reveman.

The line where Reveman crashed had been occupied by American forces only a few days prior. Two weeks later, the war ended.

Reveman received a Purple Heart award and five air medals, one medal for every five missions he flew.

This Morning’s Headlines

| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Queens Students Spend Whole Vacation With High-Stakes State Test Preps

School’s out this week, but it’s business as usual at P.S. 15 in Springfield Gardens, Queens. Almost all third through fifth grade students have been showing up each morning for class, and the subject is test prep. “I thought it would be important for them to stay on the regular schedule. Especially getting up in the morning, it’s very essential, and still doing the schoolwork, which would maintain the momentum,” said P.S. 15 Principal Antonio K’Tori. Read More: NY1



Cops warned of ‘Drano bomb’ threat

Cops in the Rockaways have been targeted for an attack with “Drano bombs,” the Daily News has learned. The NYPD issued a citywide alert Tuesday warning officers about “Drano bombs,” also known as “bottle bombs,” that “are exploded by readily mixing available household products in plastic containers.” Police sources said that while the alert went to every precinct, the greatest concern is in the Rockaways. Read More: Daily News

Kuroda faces tough test, worrisome trend in move from NL to AL

Orlando Hernandez, Jon Lieber and Shawn Chacon. You now know the only three starters acquired during general manager Brian Cashman’s tenure who have enjoyed Yankee success without having spent considerable time in the American League beforehand. It is not much of a list and El Duque is the only member who sustained a positive run with the Yankees. Hiroki Kuroda, the Yankees’ starter in today’s home opener, is trying to expand that small group. Read More: New York Post

Rangers Win Playoff Opener 4-1 Over Ottawa At MSG

Henrik Lundqvist made 30 saves and Brian Boyle got the eventual game-winning goal as the New York Rangers defeated the Ottawa Senators in their playoff opener Thursday night. The 4-2 win sent a happy crowd home from Madison Square Garden. Rangers captain Ryan Callahan opened the scoring for the Blueshirts midway through the first period, only to see the Senators take back the momentum in the second. But Rangers coach John Tortorella called a pivotal timeout, and his team responded with goals by Marian Gaborik, Boyle, and Brad Richards. Read More: NY1



‘Jamaica Bay Lives!’ documentary highlights problems affecting Queens estuary

Old saris, uncooked rice and flags featuring Hindu deities floating in Jamaica Bay would appear, to many people, as nothing more than litter. But for Indo-Caribbean immigrants, leaving the items on the Rockaway shore was once considered the only way to complete the sacred offering known as a Puja. Enter Kamini Doobay, a 23-year-old clinical researcher, trying to reconcile her religious beliefs with her concern for the environment. In 2009, Doobay began raising awareness of the problem and successfully convinced some of her fellow worshippers to reuse any non-biodegradable items, rather than leave them in the bay. Read More: Daily News

Queens co-ops $crewed: Liu

Queens co-op and condo owners who complained last year of wildly inflated property assessments were right on the mark, city Comptroller John Liu reported yesterday. Liu said his auditors determined that the market value of co-ops citywide went up 12 percent in the tentative 2011-12 property tax rolls — while Queens co-ops were hit with an average 32 percent hike. Liu also said a review of all 859 co-op complexes in Queens turned up 92 that were mistakenly “over-valued” by as much as 25 percent. Read More: New York Post

2-year-old girl forgotten aboard private schoolbus in Queens

A 2-year-old girl was forgotten aboard a private schoolbus after her driver parked the vehicle on a Queens street and went home, police said. The child was rescued after a passing Con-Ed worker spotted her inside the bus on Christie Avenue and 99th Street in Corona and called cops. The driver, Ana Garcia, 62, was arrested at her nearby 99th Street home and charged with failure to exercise control of a minor. Read More: New York Post