collisions

Yoana fights to call Itan and Neto.

Collisions is a film that explores the lives of a family of immigrants through the eyes of a 12-year-old girl, who returns home from school with her little brother only to find out their mother has just been detained by immigration police. It was written and produced by husband-and-wife team Richard and Zareen Levien.

Sadly, this story is all too common among those who have left their home country to attempt to find a better life in the States. Whether it is a search for safety, stable work or myriad other reasons, nearly all immigrants’ paths are wrought with challenges — and those challenges seem to increase in proportion to the melanin in a person’s skin.

Zareena Levien taught as a teacher in San Francisco’s Mission District, a historically Latinx neighborhood, and has witnessed the effects of immigration laws on children. A once vibrant, academically successful, smiling student turned into a moody, angry child whose grades dropped significantly after being torn from her father, who was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. These situations are often spoken about as though the only victims of our harsh immigration laws are those who have crossed borders — not the children and families broken when their parents are forced out of the country.

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Itan and her brother Neto come home to an empty house.

“It took weeks of building trust to find out why this girl, previously bright and engaged in class, was suddenly listless and prone to anger or tears at the slightest provocation. I interviewed her as part of my research. Her sadness, but also her bravery, hit me in the gut in a way that no headline or statistic ever could,” Richard Levien says. “Tens of thousands of families continue to be forcibly separated every year. [Collisions] can be a focal point for those trying to understand the real families affected.”

“One of the most powerful ways to awaken people’s empathy and awareness to issues like this is through film,” Zareena says.

“It puts a face, you know, to a story like this,” says actor Jesse Garcia, who plays the estranged uncle Evencio and is a producer of the film.

The film was inspired by that young student. It follows 12-year-old Itan and her little brother, Neto, as they fight for their mother’s freedom. Estranged uncle Evencio is called upon to look after the two children, and they are forced to navigate the labirynthine system; prison-to-prison across states and deserts as their mother Yoana is hot-potatoed from one detention facility to the next.

Itan and Uncle Evencio dance.

Itan and Uncle Evencio dance.

But Collisions still needs money in order to reach its audience.

“We believe this film is an antidote to hate, but we need your support in finishing this feature-length film and get it out in front of audiences so that we can start having these important conversations,” Zareena says.

To support Collisions, visit its Indiegogo page.

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