E.L. never imagined she would leave her tiny village high in the mountains in Guatemala, but when her mother got up the strength to flee a violent home, she was thrust into a journey that would forever change her. After a smuggler separated mother and daughter, E’s life honed to a single goal—surviving so she could find her mother again. In the animated short film A Line Birds Cannot See, E tells her story of coming to the US as an unaccompanied minor in 2006.
An excruciating trek through the desert with no food and water resulted only in deportation to Ciudad Juarez, where she knew no one. Kidnappers snatched her up, imprisoned and repeatedly molested her. When she managed to escape, a chance turn in the road took her to a stranger’s house, where she had her first taste of lasagna and the opportunity to call her mother—miraculously, after months apart, E heard her mother’s voice again. She thought that after everything they had gone through, she and her mother would finally be safe in the United States—eventually, E even qualified for the DACA program—but their new home turned out to be almost as precarious as what they left behind. This intimate look at one immigrant’s journey, told in E’s voice with compelling animation and evocative music, reveals a key truth behind the immigration debates: E, like so many immigrants, just wants a home where she can be safe.
Amy Bench is a cinematographer and filmmaker based in Austin, Texas. She took a circuitous path to filmmaking, first working as an engineer for Eastman Kodak before pursuing an MFA in directing at the University of Texas. She has been twice nominated for the Kodak Excellence in Cinematography Award, won grants from the Texas Filmmaker’s Production Fund, Women in Film- Dallas, and the Department of Education’s Jacob K. Javits Fellowship, and was recently named a “DP on the Rise” by Paste Magazine. Her camera work has screened at festivals including Sundance, Berlin, SXSW, New York Film Festival, and at MOMA/PS1.
The eight shorts in the NSF19 OPENING NITE program feature documentaries on New York communities, Brooklyn drag culture, and a firefighter’s love of cinema along with narrative stories about immigration, coming of age, sex, and self-pleasure.