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Claiming Our Voice

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Claiming our Voice is a short documentary film directed and produced by Sri Lankan-American filmmaker, Jennifer Pritheeva Samuel. The film focuses on members of Andolan, a Queens-based organization founded and led by South Asian immigrant women low-wage workers as a means to support each other and collectively organize against exploitative work conditions. Over the course of the film, we see members rehearse and refine their stories, songs and skits in preparation for the organization’s first public, multilingual, popular theater project. The film will have a companion curriculum and community outreach strategy. Claiming Our Voice shares the stories of struggle and survival of South Asian immigrant women low-wage workers in their own voices.

Claiming Our Voice tells the many stories of immigration – from familiar tales of nostalgia, sacrifice and cultural assimilation to more grave stories of employer abuse, exploitation and domestic violence. The film shows the viewer immigration and worker rights from very personal perspectives that may complicate many viewers’ preconceived notions – forcing them to see the stories behind individuals they see everyday but may rarely interact with in an intimate way. We see Andolan members through their own lenses – as women, daughters, mothers, sisters and wives. Simultaneously extreme income disparities within the South Asian-American community contribute to an environment in which low-wage South Asian workers are employed by affluent peoples of the same ethnic background.  Thus experiences and abuse endured by Andolan members are often silenced and rendered “invisible” to society at large. The stories that are published for a wider audience are sensationalistic i.e. “Modern Slavery in America!” and portray Andolan members as helpless victims, rather than as empowered individuals striving for change. Claiming Our Voice breaks community silence and honors stories by allowing women to (literally) set the stage for how their stories will be told.


Please view a 26 minute rough cut of Claiming Our Voice at https://vimeo.com/29175631 pswd: andolan

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NYWIFT programs, screenings and events are supported, in part, by grants from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York State Council on the Arts