Sin País: Documentation of a Family Torn Apart
) is a Student Academy Award-winning documentary film created by Academy of Art University’s School of Photography
(BFA ’04) alum Theo Rigby and was nationally broadcasted on the PBS series POV in August.
Theo has also received a MFA film degree from Stanford and is the quintessential Academy of Art University graduate, pursuing lifelong learning and putting his education to work to better the world around him. “I made the film to help foster a productive conversation around immigration issues. In this election year it is more crucial than ever to collectively discuss, with nuance and complexity, how immigration affects our communities,” said Theo. To further public awareness, he plans to host viewing parties across the nation, holding open discussions following the film.
attempts to get beyond the partisan politics and mainstream media’s “talking points” approach to immigration issues by exploring one family’s complex and emotional journey involving deportation. In 1992 Sam and Elida Mejia left Guatemala during a violent civil war and brought their 1-year-old son, Gilbert, to California. The Mejia’s settled in the Bay Area, and for the past 17 years they have worked multiple jobs to support their family, paid their taxes, and saved enough to buy a home. They had two more children, Helen and Dulce, who are both U.S. citizens. Two years ago, immigration agents stormed the Mejia’s house looking for someone who didn’t live there. Sam, Elida and Gilbert were all undocumented and became deeply entangled in the U.S. immigration enforcement system.
“Sin País is an intimate portrait of one family as they are separated by deportation after living in the Bay Area for almost 20 years. I shot the film during one of the most intense and emotional periods of the Mejia family's life, and the family let me into this deeply personal experience with my camera,” Theo continues, “The film is a visceral and powerful portrait of what happens when a family is torn apart.”
Beginning only two weeks prior to Sam and Elida’s scheduled deportation date, this film captures the passionate fight to keep the family together, to no avail. Sam and Elida are deported and take Dulce with them back to Guatemala. “On my way home from shooting the family separating at the airport, I knew that I had an incredibly powerful story and felt that it was my responsibility to create the most meaningful and powerful piece I could,” said Theo.
Theo’s new project, Immigrant Nation
, builds off of his experience with Sin País
and prior background in immigration work. The project combines an online platform where anyone can create and share their own immigration story, with eight intimate character-driven short films about immigration stakeholders that he will shoot and direct. To learn more about the Academy graduate’s project, click HERE