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Interview with Alum Aggie Ebrahimi Bazaz on her latest documentary film and her time at UGA

By Jessica DeMarco-Jacobson

Aggie Ebrahimi BazazAggie Bazaz graduated from UGA in 2007 with a master's degree in multicultural American Literature and a Women’s Studies graduate certificate. During her time at Park Hall, she worked with Dr. McCaskill and Dr. Judith Ortiz Cofer. Afterwards, she attended Temple University, where she graduated with an MFA in Film and Media Arts. 

Her latest documentary film, Comos VivimosHow We Live, will have its national broadcast premiere on 13 June 2024 as part of the PBS World Channel’s America ReFramed Series. 

The documentary looks into the lives of 100 Mexican-American families living at the Artesi II Migrant Family Housing Center in California. Every December, the families must travel back to Mexico for at least three months, due to set policies. 

The film will be available for purchase this summer. Aggie encourages readers to follow her on social media or @comovivimosfilm on Instagram to receive updates. 

How did your time at UGA lead you/prepare you for where you're currently at in life?

I often say that it was my time at UGA that set the tone for my entire career. While at UGA, I had the tremendous privilege of working as a graduate research assistant on the Civil Rights Digital Library Initiative. This digital humanities project allowed me to work with some of my greatest teachers: Dr. Barbara McCaskill, Lauren Chambers, the team at the UGA Library and Walter J. Brown Archives, the team at the Russell Library, and community activists. Watching hours of archival news footage of Civil Rights Movement activities, and studying the strategies of the movement in depth, I gained intimate insight into how media and storytelling can be leveraged for social good. 

Concurrently, in my Women’s Studies certificate, I was developing an analysis of how systems of power structure our lives and limit access. Through my close work with Dr. McCaskill and her rich history of scholar-activism, I observed what it means to be an educator sincerely invested in equity work, in creating opportunities for those who have historically been denied. And it was beloved Creative Writing professor, Judith Ortiz Cofer, who first invited me to write myself into the canon of artists advancing social justice through creative practice. 

So it was truly at UGA that the seeds were planted for my entire career. My education at UGA taught me that I’m not only a student of the creative and political movements which advance social equity, but that I have the responsibility and the tools to be an active participant in them. 

I’ve found that in my work as a filmmaker, I return again and again to my learning at UGA. This thinking, this body of knowledge I pull from is what has helped me to stand apart in every job I’ve had.

What inspired you to make Como Vivimos / How We Live?

I began making the film in 2014 while living in San Francisco. I was researching a stunning mural which was making visible some of the struggles which Latinx immigrant communities face in crossing physical and symbolic borders. Daily, this mural was being obscured layer by layer by the construction of a new condominium high-rise, one of the ways San Francisco was making room for the influx of tech workers. So this building, a symbol of gentrification and hyper-capitalism, was erasing a mural which was naming the people whose lives were significantly impacted by those same forces. 

Building upon the foundation laid at UGA, I wanted to contribute to re-inscribing into public dialogue the lived experiences depicted in the mural. My research into this mural led me to a collaboration with immigrant rights organizer Luis Magaña to record video oral histories with Bracero farmworkers living in and near Stockton, California. 

We went to Artesi II Migrant Family Housing Center to interview former Bracero farmworkers who were living there with their children and grandchildren. I was immediately struck by the rhythms and juxtapositions in the community: the giggles and of children set against the gunshots from the adjacent sheriff’s shooting range. The safety and harmony within the community, set against the backdrop of its neighbor, the county jail. The deep roots that were clearly being established every generation, set against the uprooting which happens every year when families are required to vacate at the end of the harvest season. I felt that there was a lot to glean in this space about how otherness is systematically constructed and generational wealth obstructed, but also about how communities cultivate their own sense of belonging and abundance. 

Movie Poster


What have been the most rewarding and challenging parts of making the documentary?

Probably most challenging were the times I felt like I was carrying this project largely alone. I did not have a stable, consistent production team so there were plenty of times when I was moving the ship on my own, without sufficient resources or thought partnership. 

But the flip side of that is what’s rewarding: now, every time I screen the film, I think of all the people who did lend time and energy, who offered discounted rates, who connected me to someone in their network, who shared a camera kit, who helped me log footage, who answered a question for me, who filled in a class for me so I could go to a shoot, who supported me via text messages and emails, who donated their homes or flight points for my travels to and from California. I think of all the people who supported this small film, the actualization of which often felt impossibly out of reach. 

I am heartened that this little independent film that operated on such a skim infrastructure, brought together a community of community members, artists, educators, and producers so powerful that we were able to make visible experiences of the US American public which had historically and systematically been rendered marginal, if not entirely invisible. 

And this, ultimately, is the work that I began under Dr. McCaskill’s teaching nearly two decades ago.


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