Being a filmmaker is challenging. But being a woman behind the camera in Hollywood, or anywhere, presents unique challenges. You have to be on top of your game in order to prove yourself. In fact, there is no gender parity, despite huge efforts. Female Hollywood directors are an abysmally low percentage of 8% of the industry according an assessment in The Celluloid Ceiling study, released by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.
Sonia Nassery Cole, Writer, Director and Producer, is a trailblazer in every sense of the word. As a refugee, she fled from war-torn Afghanistan to the United States without her family at the age of fifteen. Cole made it her life’s mission to help others through telling stories. The medium she chose was film.
Cole’s previous film “Black Tulip” was the official Oscar submission for Afghanistan and garnered numerous international accolades as well as international headlines when the New York Times published a cover story in their arts section detailing how militants located her leading actress and severed her feet for being involved in an anti-Taliban narrative. Cole returned to her homeland despite the life-threatening risks to film in her war-torn country, in pursuit of sharing the human experience.
Now she is back with a story that resonates world-wide: the plight of the refugees. Neuehouse will host an exclusive screening of her new independent feature film “I AM YOU”, the official submission from Afghanistan for the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards. Based on a true story, the film takes you on a perilous migration to freedom and hope through the eyes of three refugees. From their perspective, you will witness their will to survive, and the dramatic conditions they endure on their journeys.
The current refugee crisis is the largest since WWII; “I AM YOU” is an evocative depiction of the resilience of those forced to flee their countries and overcome trauma and hardship in search of hope.
“There is massive confusion about the difference between migration and refugees. Immigrants leave their country for a better life. Refugees leave their country because they have no choice. They take a chance that they may survive. I myself am a refugee and came to this country alone when I was a young teenager. For this reason, my life is dedicated to speaking for the voiceless refugees. This is a film created from their perspective,” Cole says.
Cole is an Author, Humanitarian and Activist who founded the Afghanistan World Foundation and is the recipient of numerous awards including “Congressional Recognition” and “Freedom to Write” from PEN Center.
Behind the Scenes: https://iamyou.film/bts/
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Director, Writer, and Producer
Sonia Nassery Cole, Filmmaker and Humanitarian, was born in Afghanistan but fled as a teenager to the United States after the Soviet invasion in 1979. From her new home, she spearheaded relief and awareness campaigns for her birthplace.
At age seventeen, two years after her arrival, she felt compelled to write a nine-page letter to President Ronald Reagan about the injustice in her country and plead for help. The president was so touched by her letter that he invited her to the oval office. The course of her life changed from that day forward.
Since then, she has been a fixture in the Afghan relief effort. In 2002, she founded the Afghanistan World Foundation, which seeks to improve education, health care, and development in that country and to enhance social opportunities for Afghan women and children.
She is the recipient of the following awards: “Congressional Recognition”, “Afghan American Sisterhood”, “United Nations Women Together”, “Freedom To Write” Pen Center. Cole is the best selling author of “Will I Live Tomorrow” and Director, Producer, Writer of “The Breadwinner” and “The Black Tulip” – winner of 11 film festivals.
Founder, Studio Ceria
Melissa Ceria, Journalist and Founder of Studio Ceria Melissa Ceria is a journalist and the founder of the communications agency Studio Ceria. She programs, produces, and moderates talks and speaker series for cultural institutions and Fortune 500 companies.
For the past five years, she served as the Director of Content and Cultivation for Marriott International’s Luxury Council, working closely with Marriott’s Executive Leadership team to produce monthly talks, private dinners, and program an annual summit with CEOs who work in fashion, retail, technology, media, design, art, and hospitality.
Melissa has led the interviews for the Women’s Forum speaker series at NeueHouse in New York, where she invites female entrepreneurs, business leaders, and artists to talk about their careers and the professional and personal transitions that have shaped their lives.
From 2007 to 2017, Melissa programmed, produced, and moderated the Art de Vivre lifestyle talks at the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) in New York. She has worked with speakers that include the late Oscar de la Renta, Tory Burch, Danny Meyer, Thierry Despont, Adam Gopnik, Bernard Tschumi, Carine Roitfeld, Bobbi Brown, Dominque Lévy, Eli Zabar, and Eric Ripert, among others.
She started her career as the Eye Editor for Women’s Wear Daily and W magazine, before becoming a fashion writer at Harper’s Bazaar. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Time, Elle Decor, Departures, and Travel + Leisure.
As a volunteer, Melissa has applied her experience in communications to help refugees and new immigrants gain skills that facilitate cultural adaptation. She recently joined the team at Echo 100Plus, a charity based in Leros, Greece, where she worked with refugees coordinating CV workshops, planning Women’s Day, and documenting stories for Echo’s social media platforms.
Melissa is French-American and was raised in London. A graduate of Harvard University, she is fluent in English, French, and Spanish. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and their three children.
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