Living in a small Southern town, 20 year-old refugee Ndizeye struggles to support not only herself, but the family she left behind in a Kenyan refugee camp. Her struggle becomes so much more when her family literally shows up at her doorstep.
Sweet, Sweet Country is a 2013 short film written and directed by Dehanza Rogers, starring Danielle Deadwyler and Gbenga Akinnagbe (The Wire, Nurse Jackie).
We meet Ndizeye as she’s rekindling an intimate relationship. A 20 year-old refugee, she lives in a small Southern town struggling to support not only herself, but the family she left behind in a Kenyan refugee camp. Her struggle becomes so much more when her family literally shows up at her doorstep.
The film was shot on location in Clarkston, Georgia.
I grew up firmly rooted in between the Southern black experience and the Caribbean Immigrant experience. Growing up black in Georgia meant I was tied—bound really, to a troubled past that still plays out in the present. The same can be said of the Immigrant experience.
The vitriolic spirit behind the sentiment of the “hyphenated American” is alive and well, just repackaged. Sweet, Sweet Country is set in a small Southern town and while there is goodwill by some, the idea of these Others holding fast to their culture while in America seems to offend.
The Refugee Experience is varied. For many, being in America is indeed a fortunate turn, for others their lives are a shadow of what they once where: doctors working in chicken processing plants, teachers cleaning office buildings, business owners unable to find work and youth who are easy prey. This short narrative is a slice of a feature film that explores the challenges of refugee youth in a new land. With limited education, skills and resources, what are their options? I choose a portion of the story that explores the end results and consequences of one specific challenge.
Sweet, Sweet Country is a short film written and directed by Dehanza Rogers. It’s a refugee’s tale set in the South, an exploration of the America Dream. This is an old tale, inspired by Southern landscape, family history and the ever changing definition of what it means to be American.
The film was shot on location in Clarkston, Georgia at Southern Place Apartments and the Clarkston Community Center, as well as Pal’s Lounge in Atlanta, GA.
The film is a second year narrative project at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television where Dehanza is pursuing an MFA in Film Directing and an MFA in Cinematography.
Dehanza Shreen Rogers is a Panamanian-American filmmaker, of both narratives and documentaries, born and raised in Georgia. She completed her B.A. in Anthropology with an interest in refugee youth culture, youth media and folklore. She is currently an MFA Directing and MFA Cinematography Candidate at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television and a receipt of the Graduate Opportunity Fellowship.
She was recently awarded the 2013 Director's Guild of America Student Filmmaker Award for her most recent work Sweet, Sweet Country. The film world premiered at the 2013 Pan African Film Festival. It won the Audience Award Winner at the 2013 Atlanta Film Festival, as well as Honorable Mention at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).
Her films explore the Diaspora, self-defined and transnational identities, with a keen interest in exploring the liminal state of statehood and nationality. What does it mean to be American or other than American or collectively Other-American?
Dehanza was recently awarded the Stanley Kramer Fellowship in Film Directing, the Mickey Dude Fellowship in Theater, Film and Television for the Depiction of Ethnic Diversity in American Life and the Lynn Weston Fellowship in Film.
She is also a recipient of the Four Sisters Scholarship in Screenwriting, Directing and Animation administered by Felicia D. Henderson (Soul Food: The Series, Moesha), Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love and Basketball), Sara Finney-Johnson (Family Matters, Moesha) and Mara Brock Aki (Girlfriends).
She recently wrapped her thesis file, The Youth which premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival. She is also developing the feature length version of Sweet, Sweet Country.
She lives and works in Los Angeles and Atlanta.