CHICAGO — The Chicagoland area is a melting pot of millions of people from countless ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, religions, native countries and more, and the Mexican and Palestinian influences are particularly strong.
Filmmaker Colette Ghunim, 27, has experienced life through the lens of both ethnicities, as her mother immigrated from Mexico and her father immigrated from Palestine.
The pair met, bonded over their shared love of the Spanish language and became smitten with each other on her dad’s first day at a welcome party in the city. They’re still together more than 40 years later.
It sounds like a love story made for Hollywood, but as is the case with most such stories, getting to that point was far from easy for the couple, who were each forced to leave their native lands as refugees in search of a better life.
In order to document their unique stories, Ghunim is preparing to launch a new 56-minute documentary film titled ‘Traces of Home,’ which is scrambling to raise over $15,000 of its $35,000 goal to be funded as part of a Kickstarter camapign that ends on October 4.
“The Kickstarter is set up, but it only gets fully funded if you raise all the funds, and then it goes back to zero,” Ghunim told The Arab American News.
“It’s really high pressure, and this is why it’s so important to spread the word…We really hope the Latino and Arab American communities will be able to get behind it and support it.”
Ghunim said she believes the documentary is especially important during a time when the dominant narrative regarding immigrants has not been in their favor, to say the least. She said she hopes to bring the special to the PBS network some time in 2020 to educate people on the immigrant story from the perspectives of her father and mother, whose quests to find their childhood homes in Palestine and Mexico, respectively, are both expected to be featured in the film.
“It’s super important for us to be telling our own stories, because for too long other people have been telling our narrative, and it’s not the truth,” Ghunim said. “This is why we’re in the situation we are right now… Putting our story out there is super important. I would be super grateful to anyone be willing to provide funding for the film.”
Already, Ghunim has accompanied her father on a quest to find his childhood home in Palestine. While she doesn’t want to spoil the ending, the experience was eye-opening, to say the least.
“My father had never returned since the Nabka (also known as the “Catastrophe”, during which thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their homes by Israeli settlers), in 1948,” she said. “We were blown away because even though his whole village was removed, complete strangers, Palestinians took him in…Twelve people came with us to help him see his home and it was absolutely beautiful.”
The startling impact of the occupation was on full display in occupied Palestine, a setting that is expected to be a major backdrop for the film at a time when the outside world is still mostly unaware of the plight of the country’s residents.
“We were in the West Bank…You can’t understand the occupation unless you see it for yourself,” Ghunim said. “It’s really devastating; we tried to cover what’s been happening since 1948 and it’s still happening now with the ongoing demolition of people’s homes.”
For the next phase of filming, Ghunim is planning to bring her mother on a quest to find her own childhood home in Mexico.
She recently was able to hit her goal of raising $35,000 on Kickstarter and will use the funds to complete the film. Her vision is to tell her family’s unique immigrant story to a national audience at a time when immigrants’ voices are being marginalized and drowned out.
“Our goal is to help people understand our upbringing, why we are the way we are, and our past trauma as well,” Ghunim said.
“We came here as refugees, the same way millions of people ended up here as well…I feel that through ‘Traces of Home’ we will show an intimate story that will help create an emotional connection with the audience.”
For more information on the film, watch the trailer below.