Photo by Randall Gee

Graduating senior Halima Lucas '13 is headed to the USC School of Cinematic Arts this fall to pursue a master's in film.

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Telling Stories, Building Bridges

Katie SweeneyMar 29, 2013

As an African-American, Halima Lucas '13 was thrilled to see her community reflected in the coursework of her Ethnic Studies classes at Pacific. But it wasn't just her own background that she discovered. 

A Stockton native, Halima began researching issues facing youth in the city's large Cambodian-American population. The result of that research-and a Pacific Fund Summer Fellowship-is "Building Bridges," her short documentary film examining the deep cultural and generational divide between Cambodian-American young people and their refugee parents. 

The documentary, which was screened March 28 in the Vereschagin Alumni House, is just one example of the kinds of films Halima hopes to make as a director. This fall, she is headed to the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts to pursue a master's degree in film. 

A Communication major with minors in Ethnic Studies and Film Studies, Halima shares the story behind her film, the impact of her Ethnic Studies education-and her passion for giving underrepresented people a voice. 

Q. Why did you decide to make a film about Cambodian-Americans? 

A. I grew up in Stockton, and I have many Cambodian friends, and my boyfriend is Cambodian. I wanted to learn more about his experience, his family, because I realized it's different than mine. 

His parents, as in many Cambodian-American families, came to the U.S. as refugees. Although they live in the U.S., they are culturally Cambodian and speak very little English, and their children, who are born and raised in the U.S., barely speak any Cambodian. They literally don't speak the same language. It leads to a lot of problems, from resentment and isolation to youth involvement in risky behavior. 

Q. How did the film come about? 

A. I started off doing independent research on the topic with Dr. Xiaojing Zhou, and that segued into me applying for the Pacific Fund Summer Research Fellowship. It was because of that fellowship last summer that I was able to make the documentary. 

Building Bridges from Halima Lucas on Vimeo.

Q. Did you always know you wanted to be a filmmaker? 

A. I had no clue! When I first came to Pacific, I wanted to be a professor in Communication. It wasn't until the summer before my junior year that, I can't even tell you why, but I woke up and said, "I think I want to be a filmmaker." It was pretty random! But I took my first film class in the fall of my junior year, and immediately I knew, OK, this is what I want to do. 

Q. What impact did the Ethnic Studies Program have on your education? 

A. Sometimes there's this assumption that Ethnic Studies is just about the experiences of blacks and whites. But the wonderful thing is that you learn about everyone's background. It's education that mirrors the diverse world we live in. When you walk out of the classroom, you see people on campus and in the community completely differently, with so much more awareness. 

Q. What's your next project? 

A. I'm working on a documentary with Dr. Steve Jacobson, associate vice president for Student Life at Pacific, on Bill Jones, a Pacific alum. Bill was the first single man in the U.S. to adopt a child and has been instrumental in the LGBT movement. That documentary is being screened on campus April 10, as part of Pride Week. 

Q. What's your ultimate goal? 

A. I want to be a director. Whether it's documentary or narrative film, I want to tell stories from underrepresented people, from perspectives that you don't normally get to see. I would never have imagined not being able to speak the same language as my parents. These are the kinds of stories the world needs to hear. That's my goal, to tell those stories and spread that awareness.