What’s it like being a teenager in the Hudson Valley when you are undocumented and can’t buy a car, attend college or do the other things that most of us take for granted, for fear of being deported? A group of high school students from Dutchess, Ulster and Orange Counties wanted to share that story, so over the course of two years they made a documentary film featuring five interviewees. Titled DREAMers among US, the film premieres at the Rosendale Theatre on Saturday, March 7. Following the screening of the 20-minute documentary at 1 p.m., the young filmmakers and their subjects will answer questions from the audience.
The teenagers belong to the Youth Arts Group run by the Rural & Migrant Ministry, a nonprofit organization based in Poughkeepsie that seeks to help young people from isolated rural areas. The group, which consists of participants age 14 to 18, has in the past made films and spoken-word CDs, painted murals and done street performances. DREAMers among US came to fruition after award-winning documentary filmmaker Robin Romano, whose films include The Harvest and The Dark Side of Chocolate, served as artist-in-residence for the Rural & Migrant Ministry. Romano’s interest in child labor and farmworkers made him a natural for serving as the students’ mentor and helping them get the project off the ground in 2013. After his sudden passing, he was replaced by filmmaker Ilene Cutler, who helped the kids complete the film.
The students spent six intensive weeks in the summer of 2013 filming the interviews and edited the film in the summer of 2014, according to Katia Chapman, associate coordinator for the Ministry’s Youth Empowerment program (the coordinator is Andres Chamorros). During the school year, they met on Friday nights. To fund costs, such as hiring a composer, the students raised $2,800 through an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. That fell short of their goal, but letters sent to the teachers’ union and other groups subsequently resulted in another $4,200: enough to cover expenses but not pay each student a stipend.
DREAMers among US is a testament to the plight of undocumented young people and the need for passage of the Dream Act: state legislation that would qualify undocumented young people for student aid funding. The bill failed to pass the New York State Senate last year, but it has been reintroduced this year, and Governor Cuomo has included provisions for the school aid funding, according to Chapman. The young filmmakers plan to show the documentary at schools and other venues in the region, including Rondout Valley High School.
DREAMers among US, Saturday, March 7, 1-3 p.m., Rosendale Theatre, 408 Main Street, Rosendale.