Faiza Almontaser is a 17-year-old senior attending the Brooklyn International High School. In 2006 Faiza immigrated with her family to Brooklyn, NY from a small farming town in Yemen. Raised as a religious Muslim, she often struggles to reconcile her cultural background with the realities she meets as a high school student in one of New York City’s most socially dynamic neighborhoods.
At age 10, Faiza enrolled in the sixth grade as the only Muslim in her school. She had high hopes for her new education, but was soon discouraged by her minimal understanding of English and the anti-Islamic fervor she encountered among her classmates. Without the knowledge of language to defend herself, Faiza spent her first few months suffering in silence.
Determined to find her voice, she spent six months learning enough English to begin speaking out against the discrimination faced by Muslims in her community. Now in high school she works as a peer trainer with the Anti-Defamation League, teaching her classmates the dangers and repercussions of racism. Faiza also works to combat her struggle with the written word; through poems and essays she challenges common misconceptions of Islamic culture, and expresses her visions for change and equality.
Under the mentorship of the award-winning filmmaker Albert Maysles, Faiza will offer a strong voice to the quieted strife of immigrant children throughout the United States. As the first American BYkids youth filmmaker, her personal narrative takes this film to the heart of issues that are cleaving social integration and international understanding in a post 9/11 world.
Among the world’s pre-eminent documentary filmmakers and the dean of American documentary filmmaking, Albert is recognized as the pioneer of “direct cinema,” the distinctly American version of French “cinema verité.” His films include Salesman, Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens and Oscar-nominated LaLee’s Kin: The Legacy of Cotton.
Read about Albert’s first meeting with Faiza in these Notes from the Field.