The Feet in 2 Worlds “Dream City” Project

Director: John Rudolph

Feet in 2 Worlds (Fi2W), a project of the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School explores the portrayal of immigrants in film and video, how moving images both reflect and help shape popular ideas about immigrants, and how today’s filmmakers and video makers are contributing to this ongoing conversation. From the very beginning of the motion picture era, film has been a powerful medium for telling the stories of immigrants and influencing how immigrants are perceived. Films such as Charlie Chaplin’s The Immigrant (1917), West Side Story (1961), Sophie’s Choice (1982), and In America (2003) have expressed both what it means to be an immigrant and how immigrants are seen by the wider society. In recent years, with the proliferation of technology that allows anyone with a smart-phone to be a filmmaker, immigrant stories are being told through online videos by students, immigration activists, scholars and producers of online content. To goal is to create conversations among activists, artists and members of the community around issues of global migration and mobility, their economic impact, political consequences and their meaning for issues of citizenship and identity.

The project will consist of three parts:

  1. A curated film series at The New School of films that tell immigrant stories in especially powerful and effective ways, with a particular emphasis on independent films and films written and/or directed by 1st and 2nd generation immigrants. Directors or writers of the films will be invited to speak at the screenings.
  2. A competition inviting student film and video-makers to submit short videos on the theme of immigrant identity. Winning videos will be included in an upcoming issue of the Fi2W online magazine, and will be shared with media partners including WNYC, Voices of New York, and New America Media.
  3. A panel discussion bringing together filmmakers, scholars, and immigration activists to discuss the role of film as a means for portraying immigrants and in shaping popular images of immigrants. The panel discussion will feature some of the short videos submitted as part of the Fi2W competition


flyer II“Dream City: immigrant experiences in film” is a film series presented by Fi2W, a project of the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School, and the Zolberg Institute that explored the immigrant experience of landing in an American city. The objective is to find fresh takes on the material and cultural complexity of leaving one place and arriving in another. What is destroyed in the process? How are things like networks, politics and identities rebuilt and reformed through migration? This project looked for films that go beyond popular narratives of immigration and take risks to tell new ones.

Held over three days, April 21st-23rd, the inaugural Dream City film series at The New School focused on immigration stories and the work of immigrant filmmakers both within the University and beyond. “Dream City” was the first film series organized by Fi2W with the goals of exploring the immigrant experience in film, examining how film and video reflect and shape popular ideas about immigration, and providing a broader platform for first and second generation independent immigrant filmmakers.Half the films consisted of shorts produced by New School students while the rest was films that have been released within the last two years. Following the screening on the final night, a panel with the established filmmakers and a guest judge chose three strongest works, and hold a discussion about themes and characters addressed in the screenings.

The film series was a huge success, with the first two nights selling out and the third night reaching near capacity. The series attracted students from several divisions of The New School, journalists, media practitioners, and general New York film lovers. For the independent filmmakers, this series was an opportunity to engage with a wider audience and to promote their work. It was the first time the student filmmakers showcased their work on a large screen, and to the public. This series, with its powerful stories and in-depth conversations, proved to be a very valuable one-of-a-kind event.

Alexandra Delano (far left), Ursula Liang (holding microphone), director of 9-Man, Musa Syeed (center), producer of A Son’s Sacrifice , Takeshi Funukaga (2nd right), director of Out of My Hand and Valeria Ferndandez (far right), director of Two Americans spoke about how film can change the narrative on immigration by challenging stereotypes and having immigrants speak for themselves. They also gave personal anecdotes about their time making their films.

Alexandra Delano (far left), Ursula Liang (holding microphone), director of 9-Man, Musa Syeed (center), producer of A Son’s Sacrifice, Takeshi Funukaga (2nd right), director of Out of My Hand and Valeria Ferndandez (far right), director of Two Americans spoke about how film can change the narrative on immigration by challenging stereotypes and having immigrants speak for themselves.

The launch event, apart from showcasing films, had engaging conversations with the filmmakers and the Zolberg Institute’s co-Director Alexandra Delano. The filmmakers that participate in the conversations are:

  • Musa Syeed, producer of A Son’s Sacrifice: His first narrative feature, Valley of the Saints won the World Cinema Award at Sundance in 2012. His previous films are the short documentaries, Bronx Princess (Bernile, POV) and A Son’s Sacrifice (Tribeca Short Doc, Independent Lens). He also co-created #30days Ramadan, a global interactive platform.
  • Ursula Liang, director of 9-man is a journalist who has told stories in a wide range of media. She has worked for The New York Times op-docs, The New York Times Style magazine, ESPN, Asia Pacific Forum on WBAI, STIRTV, the Jax Show, Hypen Magazine and currently does freelance as a film and television producer (Tough Love, Wo ai ni Mommy, ufc countdown, ufc primetime).
  • Valeria Fernandez, director of Two Americans has been reporting on Arizona’s immigrant community and the many angles and faces of the immigration debate for over ten years. In 2004 the National Association of Hispanic Publications named Fernández “Latina Journalist of the Year” and she received a national award for her 2009 series on the Maricopa County Sheriff’s immigration sweeps. Fernández currently freelances for CNN Español, CNN International, Radio Bilingue, PRI’s The World, La Opinión, New America Media and the Associated Press.
  • Takeshi Fukunaga, director of Out of My Hand, is a Japanese filmmaker based in New York. He’s received support from Berlinale Talents, National Board of Review, and IFP. His directorial debut film, Out of My Hand, had its World Premiere in the Panorama section at the 2015 Berlin International Film Festival.

The event also featured the student filmmakers:

  • Alicia Ibanez is a Chilean sociologist. Her interests focus on documentary film and social justice.
  • Ramy Zabarah is a student documentary filmmaker in his final year of the Media Studies masters program. He is interested in documenting immigrant communities, particularly Yemenis in New York City.
  • Syambra Moitozo is a graduate student in International and Global Affairs at the New School.


Day 1 (Tuesday April 21st, 2014): Opening night featured a conversation with filmmakers whose work was represented in the series. The producer of A Son’s Sacrifice Musa Syeed, pointed to the power of documentaries to create opportunities for dialogue and understanding. Syeed’s half-hour documentary follows Imran Uddin, a 27-year old New Yorker of mixed Bangladeshi-Puerto Rican heritage who takes over his father’s business, a pick-your-own Halal slaughterhouse in Queens. Syeed said that through watching the film, Uddin and his father learned things about each other that they never knew.

Day 2 (Wednesday April 22nd, 2014): Watching Two Americans, the audience was deeply moved by the courage and leadership of 9-year-old Katherine Figueroa who fought to keep her parents in the U.S after they were arrested in an immigration raid by deputies of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Filmmaker Valeria Fernandez, a former Feet in 2 Worlds reporting fellow, flew to New York from Phoenix to present her film which juxtaposes the lives of Figueroa and Arpiao, and to answer questions after a screening. The series included two short films from I Need to Be Heard!, a youth media training project of The New School’s Engage Media Lab and the Arab American Family Support Center in Brooklyn. The films Don’t and Escape used humor and drama to show what’s it’s like for young Arab American young women growing up in the U.S.

John Rudolph, Executive Producer of Feet in 2 Worlds speaking to Valeria Fernandez.

John Rudolph, Executive Producer of Feet in 2 Worlds speaking to Valeria Fernandez.


Day 3: (Thursday April, 23rd 2015): Our last day featured Ursula Liang’s film, 9-man, a film about an isolated and exceptionally athletic Chinese-American sport rooted in Chinatowns all over North America. Syambra Moitozo showcased her student film, Chimene Dreams of Eggs for the first time.


New School graduate student, Syambra Moitozo, speaking about her film, Chimena Dreams of Eggs.

New School graduate student, Syambra Moitozo, speaking about her film, Chimena Dreams of Eggs.