Immigrants make New York City what it is today. Quite literally: 3.3 million, or nearly 40%, of the metropolis’s population was born in another country.
4 Stories 4 New York, a short documentary by director Hugo Arturi, tells the stories of four of them. Now young adults, Teonia, Lubna, Fabio and Gustavo all immigrated to the United States as children. In the film, which screened to a packed house at the SVA Theater in Manhattan, they share what it was like to grow up in a country that, despite being home, did not recognize them as legal residents.
Fabio and Gustavo first bonded over being undocumented; when friends talked about college, they would outwardly nod along while inwardly knowing that without papers, higher education likely wasn’t in the cards. Teonia demurred whenever a teacher recommended that she apply for a scholarships or participate in an afterschool activity. Lubna had to take matters into her own hands after learning that while the rest of her family’s paperwork had been filed properly, her citizenship status was in question.
Liz Markuci, the director of the immigration project at Volunteers of Legal Services, an organization that provides pro-bono legal services to low-income residents, is the film’s center. Though the circumstances differ, all four protagonists managed to find their way to Markuci, who helped each of them navigate the immigration process. (Lubna is currently a citizen, while Teonia, Fabio, and Gustavo are on the path to citizenship.
Hugo Arturi is a photographer who emigrated to the U.S. and grew up in New York City. He had done motion work for commercial clients before, but had never done a documentary. Having partnered with VOLS he began building a rapport with the 4 protagonists in the film. Immigration and DACA had not yet become news when filing started and when the film premiered the political landscape had changed from debating the role of immigrants and DACA, to building walls, ICE sweeps nationwide, and travel bans.
Addressing the crowd after the screening, Liz expressed the hope that the film reminds young, undocumented immigrants that they are not alone:
“Not only are there lawyers out there who support them, but there is an entire community of artists, and teachers, and journalists, and local government officials, and everyone in this room and beyond who stand by them,” she said. “People who will fight alongside them so they can tell their stories, be heard, and, most of all, be here and be free to follow their dreams.”
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