Set in Berlin and New York, FROM HERE is a hopeful story of four young artists and activists, all from immigrant families reimagining belonging in an era of rising nationalism globally.
89 minutes | USA, Germany | 2020
Sonny is a Brooklyn-based Sikh-American rocker whose band has recently signed with Warner Records. He excitedly reflects: “This country has never seen a dude with a turban in popular culture!” It’s any musician’s dream come true, but comes to a grinding halt when Sonny’s white bandmates bulldoze his opinions. Sonny quits the band and plunges into an unexpected journey deeper into “his own” community. He accepts a day job at a Sikh civil rights organization and is required to travel to India to study Punjabi. There he is confronted with his own “American-ness” head on, but also finds himself increasingly connected to his spiritual traditions. Sonny returns to establish himself within the Sikh community as a mentor and organizer, a place where he had long felt an outsider. Moving full circle, he finds a new musical home touring the world with Red Baraat, a multi-racial band that brings together Punjabi musical traditions with jazz, funk, rock, hip-hop.
“Why should I have to justify it?” Miman asks, stumbling over a question in the complex German citizenship application. As the child of Roma parents from Macedonia, he had no right to citizenship when he was born in Düsseldorf. Now, his first baby is on the way, and he has decided it is time to be able vote. During the day, Miman is a social worker with Roma refugees from the Balkans. He is a fierce advocate for his community, but struggles with the weight of their collective trauma and depression. He is the only member of his own family who publicly identifies as Roma–they fear that sharing their identity will lead to losing their jobs or homes. When Miman’s baby arrives, he holds him close and beams with love. But there is a visible strain on his relationship. Is it due to their cultural differences? Will he be able to give his child the sense of identity that he holds so dear? Miman and his partner separate. As his domestic life frays, he questions his desire to belong in Germany at all.
When four-year-old Tania was brought to the USA from Bolivia, her parents never imagined that at 27, she would still be living without papers. Despite her master’s degree and obvious talents, being undocumented affects everything from her ability to pick up a package at the post office to entering into serious relationships. Her recent decision to become an activist and come out as undocumented simultaneously exposes and protects her from the possibility of deportation. In meetings, at rallies, and to reporters she declares: “I am undocumented and unafraid.” When Obama responds to this activism by offering temporary status to “Dreamers,” Tania must weigh out the risk of an executive order. She decides that is the best option, despite the fear that it will increase her risk of deportation in the future. WIth DACA she’s able to get a “real job” and move forward. But her fears are realized when Trump takes office, but so is her resolve to keep fighting. Her journey is not only one to procure papers but, to live a dignified life in which she and other immigrants are treated as human beings.
For well-known Berlin street artist Akim, integration isn’t about “fitting in,” but making one’s mark on the world. “That’s also a kind of integration — to take up space, to infiltrate it.” He refuses to flatten his identity or narrative for anyone, rejecting the requests of journalists, gallerists or friends to explain his work. As the film’s poet-philosopher, Akim travels between Berlin and New York, creating art and sharing his story as the child of Vietnamese refugees. He came alone to Germany, carried tremendous responsibility, and was passed between households and systems that didn’t understand him. Akim embeds urban centers with three-dimensional installations and graffiti while reflecting on his choice to transform tragedy into art, and claim his life for himself. His moving recreations and destructions of the vessel his family used to flee Vietnam as “Boat People” are an apt metaphor for the home that travels within us, releasing trauma and claiming our own liberation.
Christina Antonakos-Wallace, Director/Producer
is a filmmaker and life-long activist. Awards include the Euromedia Award for Culture & Diversity (2011), a Media that Matters Change Maker Award (2012), and recognition from the German Alliance for Democracy and Tolerance (2022). Her short films and interactive work has been exhibited in over a fifteen countries through festivals, galleries, NGOs, schools, and corporations. Commissions and grants include the New America Foundation, Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, and the German Ministry for Civic Education. She was a Fellow at Hedgebrook (2017) and the Port Townsend Film Festival (2015), and holds a BFA/BA from the New School & Parsons School of Design. Her work was recognized with a five-year MTV Fight For Your Rights Scholarship (2002) and a Humanity in Action Fellowship (2006), which she completed at the United Nations High Commission on Refugees in Berlin. FROM HERE is her first feature-length documentary.
Hari Kondabolu, Executive Producer
Hari Kondabolu is a standup comedian, podcaster and filmmaker based in Brooklyn, NY. He has been described by The NY Times as “one of the most exciting political comics in stand-up today.” In 2018, his Netflix special “Warn Your Relatives” was released and he was named one of Variety’s Top 10 Comics To Watch. He is a former writer and correspondent for the Chris Rock produced FX series “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell” and currently co-hosts the weekly First Look Media/ Topic podcast “Politically Re-Active” with Kamau.
His critically acclaimed truTV documentary “The Problem with Apu” created an international conversation about race and representation. The Nation called it a “a devastating critique of the ultimate comedic sacred cow: The Simpsons.”
Hari is a former immigrant rights organizer who worked at One America in Seattle, an organization then headed by current-Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. He has a Msc in Human Rights from the London School of Economics. He wrote a merit-earning dissertation entitled “Mexican Returnees as Internally Displaced People: An Argument for the Protection of Economic Migrants Under the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.”