The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) commissioned the short film not knowing production would start on the same day President Trump signed an Executive Order to deny U.S. entrance to anyone from the seven countries of Iraq, Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Sudan and Somalia. Academy award nominee Barkhad Abdi signed up for the project unaware that two of the places he lived – Somalia and Yemen would be included in the ban. Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, on April 10, 1985, Abdi earned wide acclaim for his first film role in Captain Phillips (2013) and has gone on to be cast in the highly anticipated “Blade Runner” reboot.
As my directorial debut it has been a joy for me to work on this project. My hope is that this film will give a sense of what undocumented immigrant families and detainees are struggling with in the United States as well as remind Americans of what is at the core of the American Dream; justice, fairness, opportunity and yes, fighting like hell for our constitutional rights.
“America; I Too” draws its title from the Langston Hughes poem “I Too,” and is as much a work of protest and community organizing as it is a work of art. The film features a predominantly immigrant cast and crew including over 250 Extras, most of whom are undocumented immigrants living in greater Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, and Lancaster, California. The cast and crew worked together to shoot the short in just three days, creating an empowerment tool for immigrant communities desperate for education around what to do in the event of arrest or pending deportation couched in a personal and moving story.