Last summer, two filmmakers from Colorado were on a mission to create the ultimate documentary that would shed light on first-generation Latinos. The enterprise, titled Project Enye, is both a film and a movement. For one year, Denise Soler-Cox and moviemaking partner Henry Ansbacher worked tirelessly to collect unique stories from Hispanics across the nation.
In their search, the two discovered that the most important story to tell was one that hit close to home. Soler-Cox, who was born to Puerto Rican parents and was raised in New York, used the term enye, for the Spanish letter ñ. She describes an enye as a first-generation Latino who was born or grew up in the United States to Hispanic parents. It's a person who feels he or she doesn't wholly belong to one culture, but rather a combination of the two.
Initially, the focus of the short-subject Being Enye was to include different stories from various enyes. Instead, Soler-Cox ended up putting herself in front of the camera and speaking about her own experiences.
A moment in the documentary shows the Puerto Rican-American sitting outside her own family home with her brother and some childhood friends. The group laughs as they recall old memories. One man says that when he was new to the neighborhood, he felt out of place as a Latino and didn't know how to act. So what seemed easiest was being a tough guy and letting people fear him.
"That guy was my brother!" Soler-Cox exclaims over the phone with New Times. "I will tell you, my brother and I have had a completely transformed relationship since that interview." The siblings were not close while growing up, but the documentarian says that conversation, which lasted two hours, changed everything. "I found out things about him, and he found out things about me... Our bond got strong that day, and we've been working on it ever since.
"That's another thing that's different [from last year]," Soler-Cox continues. "My own personal relationships have evolved tremendously out of just willing to be honest with myself through this process."
The two filmmakers were in town in April to screen the short-subject doc for the first time during the Hispanicize conference. "There wasn't a dry eye in the house. Even the grown men in the audience required tissue boxes," she jokes.
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"People just get in touch with their own lives," she adds. "They see me sharing mine, and then — it's the most amazing thing — they start thinking about their lives... It has this therapeutic effect, which is kind of funny. When I first thought about this years ago, I always thought this [project] had the capacity to heal a generation."
The man behind the lens, Ansbacher, explains, "Just watching the film — watching Denise share her story and be an honest, vulnerable person just trying to understand what this whole generation is about — gives people a transformative experience. So it's great to see that the film is effective.
"We are still considering doing a longer documentary," he continues, "but what we have completed is what we're taking on the road this year."
With the completed 35-minute doc, the filmmaking duo will hit the road this fall. The idea is to conduct 30 screenings in 30 days for Hispanic Heritage Month in October. Although the dates and showtimes are yet to be confirmed, the plans bring Soler-Cox and Ansbacher back to Miami and also take them to states such as Tennessee and Ohio.