Eight years since its debut, the documentary Immigrant Reflections was rescreened Tuesday afternoon by Dr. Susan Legere—who received both a master’s and Ph.D. from Boston College—as part of International Education Week at BC. The 12-day event, which began Monday, celebrates awareness of the world’s cultures, peoples, and languages, and seeks to affirm the critical role the international education plays at BC.
Legere’s 2007 film focuses on the lives of three BC employees who emigrated from different countries around the world—Brigida “Vicky” Miranda, Jorge Chacon, and Manuel “Manny” Alves. The documentary studies their transition into daily life in the United States and the struggles they faced as they integrated into American society.
“I think that screening the video eight years later shows there is an interest in the community in finding out about the people around us,” Legere said.
“A filmmaker’s power is considerable, and lies in decisions around what is filmed, what is not, how shots are framed, the questions that are asked, the questions that are left unasked, which comments and footage are left in, and which are edited out, and more.”
Miranda, a Guatemalan native, still works in BC Dining Services. Miranda’s mother came to the U.S. illegally when she was young, but became a legal citizen when she married Miranda’s stepfather. Throughout her childhood, Miranda endured intense poverty, but worked her way up to working full-time at BC. She simultaneously studied as a part-time student in the Woods College of Advanced Studies.
Chacon works in facility services on a variety of projects, ranging from removing snow after storms to maintaining the foliage on campus. He originally emigrated from Peru and worked a total of three jobs to support his wife and kids when he arrived in the U.S. Chacon’s son eventually graduated from the Carroll School of Management in 2007.
When he was only 10 years old, Alves moved to Boston from Cape Verde, a series of islands off of the coast of Northern Africa. Alves graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and then became a campus shuttle bus coordinator for Boston Coach. He was later promoted to supervisor and continues to work at BC today. Alves, in addition to Legere, spoke at the screening on Tuesday and answered questions from students.
Within the documentary, Legere looks at the three immigrants’ lives before they left home, their reflections on their journeys, how they built a future in the U.S. and how they maintain their individual cultural identities by combining their origins and their new lives in the U.S. The film talks about the struggles they faced with language barriers, racism, and class struggles.
“A filmmaker’s power is considerable, and lies in decisions around what is filmed, what is not, how shots are framed, the questions that are asked, the questions that are left unasked, which comments and footage are left in, and which are edited out, and more,” Legere said. “I reflected a lot about how I portrayed Manny, Vicky, and Jorge, and whether or not my portrayal of them did justice to these amazing individuals and the poignant and important stories they so kindly and generously shared with me.”
When Legere was a graduate student at BC, she volunteered with a BC Law professor to help his students create videos for their final projects. He then suggested that Legere create a film of her own and she set out on her six-year project.
Legere came into contact with Alves through a mutual work associate, and then contacted Facilities Services to get in touch with Chacon. After finding two subjects for her project, Legere approached Miranda in the dining hall and asked if she would be part of the project as well.
Although Legere was a novice filmmaker at the time, her documentary was accepted for screening at the Boston International Latino Film Festival shortly after its release.
“As I watched the film for the first time in many years, I once again had the sense that the scope of the film is too large, and blamed my sociology background,” Legere said. “I find so many themes in these interviews interesting that I didn’t want to part with anything. If I had another crack at editing the film, I would reduce the running time considerably, and stick more closely to a few themes within the larger topic of leaving one location/culture in search of a new life in another.”
While finalizing the project, Legere had help from Eric Kaighin, a professional editor from Living Reel Productions. She also earned a $500 grant from BC for creating the film, in order to offset some of the costs of production. Theatre professor Patricia Riggin shows Legere’s documentary to her freshman topic seminar, The Play’s the Thing: Exploring the World of the Theatre, every year. The seminar explores the roots of theatre in storytelling.
“The issues [discussed in the film] are still profoundly relevant,” Riggins said. “Dining Services has a huge immigrant population. If you take the time to talk to the workers here, you will hear amazing stories of resilience and triumph. The film encourages students to get to know the workers on campus, to treat them with respect, and to thank them for all they do.”
Although Legere has not done any work within the film industry since Immigrant Reflections, she currently works at BC in the Lonergan Institute.
“I was talking today at the screening that it is sort of my dream to do an update of it someday,” Legere said. “I think that it is absolutely relevant today. People all have stories to tell.”
Featured Image courtesy “Immigrant Reflections”
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the title of the documentary as Immigration Reflection. The film’s title is Immigrant Reflections.