Since she was a young child, Angy Rivera has been told to keep quiet about many things in her life. But now she is sharing her story, hoping others can step out of the shadows.
Rivera is a 23-year-old college student from Flushing who was formerly an undocumented immigrant for 19 years and whose experiences for the past two years are the subject behind a new documentary called “No Le Digas A Nadie,” translated to “Don’t Tell Anyone.”
The film’s director, Mikaela Shwer, said she first read about the Colombian native, who in 2010 started the first national undocumented online youth advice column called “Ask Angy,” in New York Magazine.
Interested in her story, Shwer met with Rivera and began building a relationship that led to Shwer filming the 23-year-old’s story in her debut as an independent film director.
“I know what the story is about and the ending, but it’s different watching it,” Rivera said about being in the film. “It was a healing process for me, opening up about things, exploring feelings that I have hidden away. It’s a different form of therapy.”
The film follows Rivera, the oldest of four children, through her everyday life hanging out with friends and her family. It focuses on the relationship she has with her mother, who immigrated to the United States with her.
The cameras also follow Rivera through her life as an undocumented immigrant and activist, as she applies for deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) and obtains a visa.
“The strength they all have as a community makes you reevaluate all the privileges that we have,” said Shwer about having shared time with Rivera and others in the immigrant community. “It makes you really appreciate things and also be frustrated. People really need to be frustrated in order for things to change.”
Although Rivera has opened up through her advice column and the activist work she has done as a core member of the nonprofit New York State Youth Leadership Council, the first volunteer undocumented youth and membership led organization, she is nervous about how some people will react to her story.
“[The film] is way different and a lot more personal,” Rivera said. “That’s always good but it’s also bad because it opens to judgment.”
Along with the issue of being an undocumented immigrant, the film also surrounds Rivera’s opening up of being a victim of sexual assault. The title of the film comes from a poem Rivera wrote called “Rusty Chains” in which she describes how since she was a young girl, she has been told not to tell anyone about what was going on in her life.
“It’s the same thing like our immigration status, for a long time many of us felt alone, similarly when you’re assaulted you feel alone. It’s a life of silence,” Rivera said. “I hope this film will start a new conversation.”
Both Shwer and Rivera hope the documentary will help others who are in the same situations to step out and share their stories. They also hope the film will continue to bring up a lot more questions, bring community members together and inspire others to get involved.
“I hope people can see that we are a family, they are everything to me,” Rivera said. “Remove immigration status – it’s a real family. Maybe this will put a human face to this issue.”
“No Le Digas A Nadie” is in the post-production phase and is expected to be finished by the end of this year. It is also in the process of finding a medium in which to be shown, with hopes of being featured in a spring or summer film festival in 2015.
For more information visit www.nodigasfilm.com.