Film Viewing and Meet the Filmmaker

Four Women. Different Cultures. New York City



Showing, Wednesday, September 21 at 7 p.m.

Four Women. Different Cultures. New York City



Genre: Documentary Feature

 Running Time: 90 minutes

Release Year: 2014

Production Company: Sabana Grande Productions, LLC



Vanishing Borders tells the story of four immigrant women living in New York City, who through their work, relationships, and activism are transforming not only their lives but the lives of those around them. The film places a human, female face on the often abstract issue of immigration, inviting audiences to experience the profound happiness, pain, and sense of discovery that comes from leaving one’s home behind and settling down in a new country.


Daphnie Sicre

Born in Ecuador to Peruvian and Spanish parents, Daphnie was raised in Spain and moved to the United States when she was 15 to live with her grandmother and flee a turbulent custody battle. Being passionate about theater, racial politics, and activism, she has brought them together in her Educational Theater doctoral work at New York University and through teaching at the high school and college levels. Daphnie inspires her students to think of the role that their racial and national identities play in shaping who they are and how their activism can transform their lives, as well as society. As a theater director who has staged over 30 professional and high school productions, she is drawn to plays that explore race and gender, using performance as an invitation for the audience to transform their lives and the lives of those around them.

Yatna Vakahria

Yatna left her home country of India at 19 to join her husband, who was working in New York. While the move hadn’t been a permanent one, she decided to stay for her two children, wanting them to grow up in a consistent environment. She volunteered throughout their educational lives, receiving awards for her work at the schools and becoming the PTA president. While tutoring her own and neighboring children, she discovered she had a knack for education and got her GED, enrolling in a community college to become a math teacher. Her success there led her to Columbia University, where she is working toward her degree and preparing to change the world one student at a time. Although she originally stayed in the United States for her children’s sake, she has taken advantage of opportunities available to women here and as a teacher will inspire future generations of girls to do the same.

Melainie Rogers

Melainie grew up in Australia, in a small country town outside of Melbourne, where her family has lived for over seven generations. Not only was she the first in her family to attend college, upon graduating she moved to Japan, where she navigated life in a place where she couldn’t even read the alphabet. She came to the United States to attend New York University’s Clinical Nutrition Master’s program, after which she opened her own practice, melainie rogers nutrition. Aside from addressing dietary concerns, her practice provides clients with holistic, emotional treatment to lead them back to health. A lifelong supporter of women’s rights, Melainie overwhelmingly hires women, creating a safe female space for staff and clients alike. Having lived most of her life away from her native Australia, she has created a family of American and fellow immigrant friends who look after each other and find connection through exploring their cultural differences.

Teboho Moja

Teboho was born in South Africa, where she was active in the anti-apartheid movement and in rebuilding her country once Nelson Mandela came into power. She first came to the United States with her family as a Fulbright scholar in 1982 and moved back and forth between both countries before settling down in New York, where she is a clinical professor of higher education at New York University. Like many immigrants today, Teboho inhabits both cultures, traveling back and forth between the States and South Africa, where her mother, children and grandchildren live. Her ability to feel at home in both countries and to blend the values and ideals of these two cultures to form her own way of living and thinking is something she brings into her classrooms, her activism, and her personal relationships, helping those around her also widen their own views and perspectives.

Alexandra Hidalgo

Director, Producer, Editor

Alexandra Hidalgo’s filmmaking journey began in 2009 when, having no training in the cinematic arts, she traveled to her native Venezuela and make a short documentary about Venezuelans’ infatuation with breast implants. The resulting film, Perfect, has screened at national and international film festivals and is currently being taught in college courses across the country. Having fallen in love with crafting moving images, Alexandra has continued her exploration of life behind the camera, making a number of short documentaries, completing a book about feminist filmmaking, and teaching film and video production at Michigan State University, where she is an assistant professor. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of agnès films, an online community of women filmmakers.


Immigration is in my blood. I was born in Caracas, Venezuela to parents who were the children of the kind of people whose trajectory through the world would make the most intrepid of travelers dizzy, and this at a time when boats, not planes, were the mode of transatlantic transportation and letters were the only sensible way to communicate with those left behind. My first prolonged taste of a different culture came when I was two-and-a-half years old and we moved to New York City for a year. It wasn’t until I was sixteen, when my toddler English had long been forgotten, that we picked up our lives and continued on the peripatetic path laid out by our ancestors by moving to Dayton, Ohio. In that exotic (to me) Midwestern town my identity blossomed and cracked with an ecstatic and painful reinvention that I’m still untangling more than two decades later.

As personal and unique as it felt to my teenage self to redefine who I was in a completely new cultural environment, it is of course a very common experience for people in our increasingly globalized world. And yet, as I watched immigrants portrayed in big and small screens, it was hard to find stories that reflected the complexity and depth of my own and my family’s experiences. While it was tempting to blame the void on the Hollywood system and corporate media, it was even more tempting to make the kind of film I wanted to see. And so, with limited filmmaking experience and a lot of passion for the story I was trying to tell, I set out to make a feature documentary about the lives of immigrant women.

Much like a Venezuelan girl landing in the Dayton airport, I found myself once again trying to blindly make my way through a new world as I worked on Vanishing Borders. The professional—albeit independent—filmmaking world is as intricate and complex as a country, with its own rules, culture, language, and unspoken customs that I’ve learned to navigate in the last four years with the help of my spectacular crew and with institutional support from Purdue University, where I was working on my Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition when I began this journey back in 2009, and from Michigan State University, where I am now an assistant professor of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures.

Yatna, Daphnie, Melainie, and Teboho have been my constant companions for four years as I sought to convey their essence and the essence of their immigrant stories in 90 minutes. I have spent hundreds of hours in the company of their voices and faces in Final Cut Pro, trying to capture the poignancy and complexity of their stories to move, inspire, and hopefully transform the audience in the way that these stories have transformed me. There is something magnetic and unique about them in person, something courageous and contagious that brings to life the best aspects of being a woman and an immigrant. Here’s hoping that Vanishing Borders portrays that power because then I will have certainly made the movie I so desperately wanted to see that I decided to make it myself.