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An interview with Page Cooper Anderson, director of Patiri

By Al Nigrin

originally published: 10/02/2018

The timely film PATIRI in the promised land screens at the New Jersey Film Festival this Friday, October 5!

The timely film PATIRI in the promised land screens at the New Jersey Film Festival this Friday, October 5. 

 Here is the interview I conducted with PATIRI in the promised land  director Page Cooper Anderson:

Nigrin: Your short film PATIRI in the promised land focuses on a young immigrant woman from Zimbabwe who befriends a bookstore owner with the hopes of forming an alliance that could help her remain in her country of choice. Please tell us more about your film and why you decided to make it?

AndersonMy decision to make this film started with a 1 minute conversation on a set. The actress, Vongai Shava,  who plays Patiri, the young immigrant from Zimbabwe, is actually just that, a young immigrant from Zimbabwe. I met Vongai on the set of my first artistic endeavor. She was only an extra on the set of a web series I had written, yet she stood out. Her face lit up every scene she was in. She struck up a conversation with me and told me bits of her story and her struggle to remain in The United States. Trump was only days in office at this time, so I must admit that the story has only gained relevance as the months pass. 

Nigrin:  The young woman who plays the lead is really quite special. Tell us more about her and how you were able to get to be part of your film?

AndersonI could not get Vongai and her plight out of my mind. How could I help this young Zimbabwean?  It is one thing to use portions of her story, another, still, to use the immigrant herself to tell the story. I never asked Vongai to audition. I didn't care it she could act. Her voice needed to be heard. I would commit to writing her a screenplay! We, together, had the opportunity and an obligation to turn around and reach out to other young people in her position and offer out a hand.  It was an amazing 4 day journey,  to bring this pilot (1 of 6 episodes) to the screen. She is already an award winner, with the Hollywood Stars Film Festival, for her brave performance.

Nigrin:  Your film is quite timely given the restrictions being imposed on immigrants by the current U.S. government. Was this a factor in the making of your film? 

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Anderson:  NO! I cannot lay claim to seeing the tragic future that was about to befall our country and it's valuable immigrant population. It was merely her specific plight as a new graduate, whose student visa was about to expire, that inspired my story. It was already difficult to stay in the US, at that time. As the months passed, and the immigration issue exploded, so did Vongai's new found fear. She received her 0-1 visa to stay, just after we wrapped our shoot. THIS IS THE FIRST film festival she is able to attend out of dozens around the globe. The first festival where she didn't have to get on a plane to attend. Now, in a way, she has become a prisoner of The United States. Scared to leave, for fear she will not be able to return.

Nigrin:  Are there any memorable stories while you made this film or any other info about your film you can pass on to us? 

Anderson:The one that still hangs in my heart like 500 lbs, was the day on set when I could not seem to get Vongai to say her lines. She couldn't stop her tears. It was the day we shot inside the INS office. I recall taking her aside and asking why she had tears in her eyes. She told me that she couldn't say the words because she feared the universe would hear her, and see the scene in which she was told she had 48 hours to find a sponger and a job. That her portrayal could trigger a ripple effect that would produce that very outcome she feared. She would be sent home to Zimbabwe. What happened next? Come see the film. Come see Vongai,  as Patiri, and let her tell you herself. A Q&A will follow the film.

PATIRI in the promised land will be playing with another short and a feature. Here is more info for this screening. 

Let Mercy Come -Andrew Serban (New York, New York) A young woman is forced to take a stand when her white supremacist cohorts attempt to commit a hate crime against a Syrian refugee. In the process, she learns the meaning of tolerance and acceptance.  2018; 23 min.With a Q+A Session by Director Andrew Serban!

PATIRI in the promised land - Page Cooper Anderson and Dana Marissa Schoenfeld (New York, New York)  A young immigrant from Zimbabwe befriends a bookstore owner, in hopes of forming an alliance that could help her remain in her country of choice. 2018; 25 min.  With a Q+A Session by Director Page Cooper Anderson!

JFK The Last Speech - Bestor Cram (Boston, Massachussetts)  JFK The Last Speechmovingly documents the bond between President John F. Kennedy and the poet Robert Frost—as well as a surprising encounter with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at the height of the Cold War. Born out of these events was the last, remarkable speech that Kennedy gave, a speech about poetry and power, which altered the lives of a group of Amherst College classmates, who witnessed Kennedy deliver the speech on their campus. 2018; 58 min. With a Q+A Session by Director Bestor Cram! Co-sponsored by the Rutgers University American Studies Department and the Rutgers University Cinema Studies Program! 

Friday, October 5, 2018 at 7:00 p.m.?, Voorhees Hall #105/Rutgers University?, 71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick, New Jersey?

$12=General; $10=Students+Seniors; $9=Rutgers Film Co-op Friends?

Information: (848) 932-8482;

Albert Gabriel Nigrin is an award-winning experimental media artist whose work has been screened on all five continents. He is also a Cinema Studies Lecturer at Rutgers University, and the Executive Director/Curator of the Rutgers Film Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center, Inc.

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