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Support Latinx Voices: Traces of Home Documentary

Woman's hand touching a photo book with a picture of a man smiling

In case you missed our recent interview with Latinx filmmaker Colette Ghunim, she is currently working on her documentary, Traces of Home. This documentary follows her Mexican mother and Palestinian father as they each journey to their home countries. So what’s the big deal? Well, both of them had to leave their homes at a young age, due to the dangers of either war or an abusive home. They haven’t been back since then, until now.

Trailer for Traces of Home

Colette is currently raising funds to document her mother’s visit to Mexico. Please check out and share her Kickstarter here!

We talked with Colette about her film and the creation process so far.

SR: What is the premise of Traces of Home?

CG: I’m half-Mexican and half-Palestinian, and both my parents, they were forced out of their homes when they were children. So through Traces of Home, we’re going back on these journeys to Mexico and Palestine to try to find their original homes and then also finding out more about my own identity and being a first-generation American in the process.

SR: What was the catalyst for you saying “I’m going to do this”?

CG: I was always interested in doing something like this, but I was thinking to do it more like mid-career, when I had a few more films done, but my dad is already 75 and my great-aunts are in their 90s. So I knew that if we wanted to do this, it needed to happen sooner than that. Then, yes, Trump got elected and all the craziness happened with the refugee band and family separations and it just go so nuts. And I was like this story needs to be told now, because it’s both Latinos and Arabs that have become the targets.

SR: What was your biggest challenge in terms of logistics? Just planning it, figure out if you could do it?

CG: I had no idea of how to find the house, my father’s house. I’m like how are we going to know? I knew the town where he was from and I was talking to different family members. They’re like, oh, he’s from this neighborhood, but then another family member would say he was from a different neighborhood. So, like, okay, how are we going to do this?  Thankfully we found an organization that actually was creating a map of my dad’s village, of who owned the homes before 1948, so that’s how we were able to find it. The other thing was actually being able to get into Palestine, Israel, because we are Palestinian and usually it’s very, very hard for people to go back and return. They don’t want people to return.

My dad did not want to go at all. He was like, I’m not doing this. I do not want to see random people living in the home that my father built and see Israeli soldiers and the treatment of Palestinians, I can’t take it. 

I’m like, Dad, we’re doing this, it’s going to happen. I’m sorry, Dad. I’m bringing him, forcing him to face trauma, but I don’t know. It’s important for him to see his own place. He’s always wanted to see it, but he’s like I can’t handle it. I’ll wait until there’s peace. I’m like, Dad, you’re 75. What’s going to happen in the next 100 years? I don’t know. So then he went and then he loved it and now he wants to go ever year. He absolutely loved everything. My dad, he has a very heavy accent and he never really talks that much in the U.S. because he’s so self conscious about people being able to understand him and things. So when we’re at the dinner tables and things he never really talks that much. When he was there, he turned into a completely different person. He was nonstop talking. It was so beautiful to see that he was so at ease with his own people.

Recording Mr. Ghunim in Palestine
SR: So he was given a catharsis, like a comfort?

CG: Yes, yes, yes, and like how Palestinians just took him in completely and they were so excited to have him there. They can’t believe you came back after 70 years. Everyone was very, very excited to see him. And they didn’t even know who he was. Everyone left what they were doing at work and they all wanted to come with us to find the house.

SR: On your mom’s side, what were the challenges?

We haven’t even gone to Mexico yet. So we have to figure this out, too, of how to find out what happened to her dad and her house. My mom is fine with going. She’s curious to see what happened with her father, because they left when she was 8.

Her father was this tailor for celebrities and they were very wealthy living in Mexico City, Nobody knew that inside the house he was an alcoholic and he was very abusive towards my grandmother. After years of enduring this abuse and about to almost be killed, she decided to escape. She took her children in the middle of the night and pretended they were going to school and then she left. They went to Tijuana, and then they came to the U.S. and she never went back. So they don’t know what happened to him or the house or anything since.

He had detectives looking for her, to kill her, in the U.S. He loved his children. He was wealthy, so he had connections. So they were in hiding, no Spanish, trying to assimilate as much as possible.

My grandmother had a passport. She had citizenship already to the U.S. but her children didn’t. So she came to L.A. and she had to leave her children in Tijuana for a year… in an orphanage until she could get them to the U.S.

Traces of Home fundraiser
SR: You had some great art for your previous fundraiser.

The fundraiser idea was to combine the Mexican and Palestinian cultures in one place. That would be like something people have never gone to before, while also talking about the social issues and the film and that sort of thing. The wall idea was because there are walls in both Mexico and Palestine and the same companies are making the walls in both countries, which I didn’t know. So having this wall represent bridging the two cultures, but then also breaking these cultures up, too, with the borders. We projected Palestine on side of the wall, and on the other, Mexico. So it was like on each side you’d be on either land kind of thing. This amazing artist, Latif Hamzah painted it with the graffiti on the actual walls on both sides.

SR: So what state is the movie in now? Where are we?

So we just went to Palestine in March. We finished production there, and now I’m launching a Kickstarter campaign in September to raise money to go to Mexico by January. It’s going to post-production, too. My goal is to finish it by the 2020 election. My dream would be to have it on a PBS broadcast.

Please visit and share the Traces of Home Kickstarter page at this link:


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