While working on a project with the Mexican American immigrant community in upstate New York, Aggie Ebrahimi Bazaz, an independent documentary filmmaker and assistant professor at Georgia State University’s School of Film, Media and Theatre, noticed something strangely familiar.
A lot of the questions she was asking in the filmmaking process — Where are you from? How long have you been here? Why are you here? — sounded like the questions she and her family had been asked in immigration interviews and by customs agents as Iranian immigrants traveling to and from the United States. Her intention, of course, was very different than that of immigration officials. But Ebrahimi Bazaz said the realization made her think of the ways she and other documentarians might be unintentionally “othering” subjects in their work.
“We’re reinforcing the same thinking that leads to the immigration policies that we’re trying to counteract,” she says. “Our practices are not aligned with hoped-for outcomes.”