Prejudice and Injustice Examined in Adama

Posted on November 4, 2011

The new documentary Adama, by filmmakers David Felix Sutcliffe and Su Kim, examines why the FBI picked up a 16-year-old Muslim girl from Harlem on suspicion of being a potential suicide bomber. ITVS Broadcast and Distribution Manager Kate Sullivan Green spoke with director David Felix Sutcliffe about the film — which airs this Sunday, November 6 on the WORLD Channel and will stream freely for 30 days after the broadcast on


How did you first hear about Adama’s story?  
DAVID: Adama had been a student at The Harlem Children’s Zone where I was teaching video production.… We started talking and I thought if anyone needs to pick up a camera and tell a story, it’s her. We gave her a camera but because there was so much pressure to take care of the family since her father was detained as well, she didn’t have time to make the film. At that point I asked her if I could take on the filmmaker role and that’s how it began.

How is Adama and her family doing now? 
DAVID: They are doing surprisingly well considering everything. After the film was completed, the ACLU filed a lawsuit to get Adama off the no fly list and several months later she was safe to fly. She was also recently featured in McSweeney’s “Patriot Acts: Narratives of Post-9/11 Injustice” edited by Alia Malek. The book is a collection of stories and interviews with Adama and other individuals who have similar stories. It was great for her to participate in that and develop a sense of community around what she went through. As for her family, it’s been a tough time for them, I don’t know if they will they ever be able to heal.  The good news is that her father’s lawyers were able to secure his return to the country so he has been back with his family since June 2011. 

What do you hope viewers learn from your film? 
DAVID: One is that I want the film to provide an emotional reference point so people can understand how devastating our immigration policies have been for families in the United States.  At the end of 2011, over 400,000 will have been deported this year.  Hopefully this film will draw light on that and the impact that has on the family members of those who are deported. The second is that we inspire people to question the terrorist cases we see in the news. Adama’s story is unique because of her age and gender, but there have been many other cases involving young men that were not so carefully examined. 

What’s your favorite part of the production process? 
DAVID: This is my first film but so far my favorite has been spending time with Adama and her family.  It has changed my life. They opened their homes and their lives to me and I am incredibly grateful for that.  I am also very grateful to all the people who have supported us throughout the process — friends, family, other filmmakers. 

What’s a great piece of advice you received while making this film? 
DAVID: Early on, I was becoming overwhelmed on how to place the story with statistics and information [on immigration] and our Executive Producer Hugo Perez said, “Numbers don’t move people, stories move people. That’s what changes hearts and minds.”  I hope that Adama’s story moves people enough to go out there and educate themselves on how many families are going through this.  Without her story those numbers mean nothing. 

Adama airs on WORLD on Sunday, November 6 (check local listings) and will be streaming on November 7 through December 6.


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