Film Editor Looks To San Diego’s Syrian Refugee Kids For Possible Documentary Series
The founder of a Los Angeles-based video production company is turning to El Cajon’s Syrian refugee youths for a potential TV series that would showcase their lives in the U.S. Development of the program, which aims to shine a light on the challenges facing young newcomers from Syria, comes at a time when the Trump Administration is pushing to limit immigration.
The idea belongs to Bill Marmor, an experienced video editor who works both in L.A. and New York City and has produced national commercials, documentaries and reality television programs. He said the goal is to equip Syrian refugee kids with cameras so they can film from their point of view.
"Young kids from 17, 18 maybe 19 who live the American experience but have the baggage from what they've come from — the scars, the torment of their family losses and all that — and trying to become American and live the American dream," Marmor said, who is working on the show with a partner.
He said he felt a program that humanized the young newcomers timed well with the current debate around immigration.
“Dealing with the ... multicultural elements of wanting to retain their original culture and trying to modernize to America — just to me it started to all come together that this is a great story in today’s world right now with the politics as they are,” he said.
President Donald Trump has issued a series of executive orders restricting immigration from select countries. The policies have been subject to legal challenges, but in December the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the limitations to go into effect until the justices can officially rule on the matter. A decision is expected in June. The president also reduced the annual cap on refugee arrivals.
Marmor is connecting with local refugee-serving organizations in the region to find interested participants, including 16-year-old Tasmin Alsidnawi. A refugee from Syria’s Damascus region, Alsidnawi said she’s excited about the project because it would give her the opportunity to share her culture with a large audience.
“I want to show people, like, different things about me and about people who wear the hijab,” Alsidnawi said in a phone interview. “I want all the people (to) see my life, how I start to learn English because I’m from Syria, because I speak Arabic.”
The show “The Children of the Revolution,” is in the very early stages. Marmor, who operates Rex Edit and its subsidiary MarMedia said he has not secured outside funding nor an outlet to air it. He said he plans to select participants in March and later pitch it to a variety of networks, such as Netflix, CNN and the History Channel.
Marmor said the show would use footage shot by the participants and likely incorporate sit-down interviews and some scripted scenes, but only for clarification purposes.
"We may have to create some scenes to help transitions or (the) storytelling arch in order to explain things," he said. "There will be moments where we'll have to do some sort of scripted elements, but we're not going to be throwing chairs, we're not going to be making them say things they shouldn't say."
Doris Bittar, president of the local chapter of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, helped connect Marmor and Alsidnawi. She said the program could familiarize audiences with the traditions of Middle Eastern countries beyond just Syria.
“If we can learn through Syrians — because people are more open to learning about Syrians, it seems like the climate is a little warmer toward Syrians than it is toward others — maybe that’s a doorway,” Bittar said.
She said the project would also offer a window into the lives of youth in America.
“It’s the most intense period of our life,” she said.
San Diego was a top resettlement site for Syrian refugees prior to Trump’s orders. From fiscal year 2015 to 2017, the area accepted more than 1,000 newcomers from the country, according to county data. Even more arrived from Iraq during that time while hundreds came from Afghanistan. The flow of refugees has significantly dropped since the president's immigration policies went into effect.