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Award-Winning Film Fellow Needs Your Help

A shining example of the inspiration behind Tribeca Film Institute’s Film Fellows program, Frisly Soberanis is today an accomplished storyteller and filmmaker. He wants to continue his education at Brooklyn College, and he needs your help.

Note: This piece was initially posted on the Tribeca Film Institute blog.

Editor’s Note: The Tribeca Film Institute’s Film Fellows come through our doors from different upbringings and cultures. But there’s one thing they all have in common: they want to become storytellers.

To accomplish this they all need to continue their studying, but for Frisly Soberanis there are challenges ahead.

This 2010 Film Fellow, who is currently in our 2012 summer program, is an undocumented student and has recently launched a campaign to raise funds to attend Brooklyn College as due to his status he’s not qualified for financial aid.

Below, Frisly tells his story and his hopes for the future. The tuition deadline to Brooklyn College is July 25. If you'd like to donate to his campaign, click here.


My name is Frisly. I just graduated from the Academy for Careers in Television and Film, a New York city public high school. I am an undocumented student.

I came to the United States about 11 years ago, in August 2001. I was only 7 years old when the airplane I took arrived in the United States. I had no idea that I was never going to go back to Guatemala. Seven months later, after the allowed visiting period ended, I was left with no documentation or papers to stay in the country.

I went through elementary and middle school thinking that I was going to go to college and start a career. I was just like all my friends, I had the same aspirations as everyone. My dreams began to disappear when I got to high school. Around tenth grade I realized that there isn't much help for students like me. I started to doubt my future, and feel ashamed and aggravated about my situation. I don’t qualify for financial aid. I don't qualify for loans and to make it worse I can not be on a payroll. The only type of work I can get is freelancing. The lack of security in my future makes me feel like less of a man. I’m 18 already and I don't have any type of identification. I'm 18 and I don't have a driver’s permit. I’m 18 and I can't even work at McDonald's.

But thankfully I found a talent and a voice through film. When I was 8 years old, I took an after school class on video. That class sparked a fire in my heart. Filmmaking became my passion. I have shown two short documentaries at the Tribeca Film Institute’s Our City, My Story youth screening series at the Tribeca Film Festival. I won the Tribeca Film Institute’s Film Fellow Award, which allowed me to open up more doors. I have met many artists and filmmakers through Tribeca. I even landed a director of photography internship at the Sundance- and Tribeca-funded documentary American Promise.

With the doors that have opened for me I have gained the skills necessary for an aspiring filmmaker. I have been freelancing and developing a body of work and reel that I hope can help me in the future. I have been shooting things from weddings to fashion videos for young local designers, and creating PSAs for various community institutions. I am currently volunteering at the New York State Youth Leadership Council, where we have been pushing New York State to pass the New York Dream Act. But I am still weighed down by the fear of not being documented, not being eligible for the aid necessary to attend college, and not being able to hold down a real steady job.

Going to college is very important to me, it is something I’ve worked toward throughout school. It is something I believe will open up more doors and opportunities. My family and I have not worked so hard for me not to continue my education. This is the reason my family came here, for us to excel and hopefully accomplish the American dream.

The tuition deadline to Brooklyn College is July 25. If you'd like to donate to Frisly’s campaign, click here.

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