Nearly 71 million people are displaced across the world due to poverty and violence; a new short film, We Do Not Live Here, tells the remarkable story of one of them.
Kensey is a refugee who fled Honduras on foot with three of her children. She’s currently at a migrant camp in Tijuana, Mexico, awaiting an asylum trial to immigrate to the U.S., and is separated from her husband and son, who are awaiting asylum in Texas. “My children aren’t bad,” she says in the film, tearing up. “They won’t cause any harm to your country.”
We Do Not Live Here was directed by Rae Ceretto and produced by Kelly Scott. It premiered Thursday at the Matador Virtual Film Festival and won the Audience Choice Award — and is currently seeking funding to expand into a full-length documentary.
The film was shot over three days in September 2019. Ceretto, who has been working as a documentary photographer focusing on refugees for 15 years, spent days meeting women and hearing their stories. “I’ve always felt a deep connection with the women I meet at the camps,” Ceretto says. “They have been through so much, yet they remain warm, strong, and resilient.”
“Whether it’s Uganda, Mexico, or the Middle East, I have found that there is always a kinship in the women’s stories,” she added. “From my experience working with these women, I decided I wanted to make a film that wove their stories together, highlighting the parallels of refugee life and the power of the female spirit.”
By the time filming began, Mexico revoked funding for the migrant camps in Tijuana, and most shut down. Many women declined to be filmed, for fear of their families’ safety back home. But Kensey agreed because she had no remaining family in Honduras.
After the film was shot, the U.S. policy Remain in Mexico took effect — which means that asylum seekers arriving at ports of entry on the U.S.-Mexico border will be returned to Mexico while they wait for their immigration proceedings. “Now there are thousands of refugees and asylum seekers waiting at the border for their day in court,” Ceretto says. “It’s a complete mess. Their trial days keep getting moved, and most of them do not have legal counsel. It is so bad that most of the women we spoke to have returned home, but Kensey still has hope.”
Refugees and other lower-income communities will be hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ceretto and Scott hope to raise awareness with We Do Not Live Here, seeking donations toward the Playing for Change Foundation, which supports communities affected by the crisis. “As scary as this pandemic is for us in America, it will be much worse for those who do not share the same privileges we do,” Ceretto notes.
Ceretto and Scott started an all-female production company, Honeypot Productions, and We Do Not Live Here was shot with an all-female crew. “Women often get overlooked in the documentary world, and I believe that by working together we are able to change that dynamic,” Ceretto says. “We hope to create more opportunities for women in this field.”