In Second Year, Film Festival Celebrates Immigrant Stories

In a still image from "Bulls and Saints," by filmmaker Rodrigo Dorfman, Cheyo Macias pauses before entering the bull-riding ring.

The Home is Distant Shores Film Festival returns virtually in 2020 to continue celebrating the experiences of immigrants and refugees through film.

After debuting last year at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, the festival to be held Oct. 16-24 unveils an expanded lineup of 25 films, including 20 short films and five features.

The personal stories of immigrants and refugees lie at the center of the festival, making it a unique event, says festival director Aby Rao.

“Given the current immigration landscape we live in, I feel like it’s important that we highlight the personal lives of individuals rather than being political,” he said. “Making sure that we speak on a more personal level is what’s important to me and the festival.”

This year, the films will feature 14 female filmmakers and 17 films associated with people of color as either the subject or creator of the work, Rao says.

The festival will also include local ties, featuring Durham-based independent filmmaker Rodrigo Dorfman’s

The short documentary is a love letter from Cheyo Macias to his wife in Mexico, while he spent time bull-riding in North Carolina.

“It’s a classic story of immigrants, because in the sense that any immigrant story is always of two places  always,” Dorfman said. “It’s never about one place, and so it’s filmed both in Mexico and in North Carolina.”

Much of the North Carolina scenes were filmed in Wendell in 2018. Dorfman met Macias, nicknamed “El Desobediente de Cheran,” while working on a longer project about bull-riding in North Carolina. That project has another year of filming.

As a filmmaker, a virtual festival will be a different experience than one with a crowd, but it has the potential to reach a different audience, Dorfman says.

While Dorfman is the lone local filmmaker in this year’s lineup, Rao says the festival is particularly well-suited to be based in the Triangle.

“Given that we live in central North Carolina which has welcomed diversity, especially when it comes to immigrants, I felt like this is a wonderful place to run the festival, and to kind of resonate the mindset of the community here,” he said.

Because COVID-19 forced the festival online, organizers decided not to charge admission for any of the films.

Selected films will be released on Oct. 16, 17 and 18, and all films will be available for viewing from Oct. 19 until the festival ends on Oct. 24. To view the films, those interested must register for a ticket that ensures they receive communication and links to the films.

For more information and to register for tickets, visit

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