June 16, 2015


A former military police officer attempts to reconcile his love for music with the memory of hearing it used as a weapon while stationed at Guantanamo Bay.

An immigrant family from Cuba mourns the loss of their wife/mother/grandmother thousands of miles from the place they know as home.

These are the real stories behind two documentaries filmed, edited and produced by Ashley Blasczyk '15 and Joyzel Acevedo '15 as part of their Film and Media Studies senior thesis projects.

In Future Dreams by Ashley Blasczyk '15

Terry Holdbrooks

Powerful and poignant in subject matter and presentation, Blasczyk's documentary prominently features former military police officer Terry Holdbrooks (pictured right), who was stationed in Guantanamo in 2003­. The documentary's title, In Future Dreams, comes from one of the first songs Holdbrooks recognized while escorting a detainee to interrogation.

A film and media studies and sociology double major, Blasczyk says Professor Adam Levine's "Lost and Found" course—in which students learn to recycle pre-existing moving images—influenced how the documentary came together. "Found footage was central to my thesis," says Blasczyk. "I used Joint Task Force Guantanamo's video footage and concert bootlegs from the 1980s."

Blasczyk's documentary also includes pre-existing media coverage of Holdbrooks discussing why he later contacted the musicians, a band called Skinny Puppy, whose music was being used in Guantanamo, and the subsequent media coverage of the band sending an invoice to the Department of Defense. "They weren't actually attempting to profit from it," Blasczyk explains. "It was more to bring attention to the issue."

But ultimately, Blasczyk says, "The hype over the invoice was sensationalist and very short-lived…. The entire thing became a distraction from a real discussion about the dehumanization and indefinite detention that is actually going there." Blasczyk's film delves deeper, calling into question the use of music as a weapon of imperial violence and using the voice of Holdbrooks to question, "Why are we torturing and abusing to begin with?"

Milagroso Azul (Miracle Blue) by Joyzel Acevedo '15

"Mourning, for an immigrant family away from their homeland, is significantly different from other families," says Acevedo. "It's something much more complex that I noticed when I went home to film my family in the aftermath of my grandmother's passing."

With themes of displacement, immigration, exile and transnationality, Acevedo's autobiographical documentary Milagroso Azul (Miracle Blue) delves into the lives of her mother, uncle and grandfather following the recent death of her grandmother and her family's migration to the United States from Cuba nearly 30 years ago. "Although it's a story of the loss of my grandmother," Acevedo says, "it's also about the loss of home, of culture, a sense of identity."

Milagroso Azul
Still from Milagroso Azul (Miracle Blue) by Joyzel Acevedo '15

Acevedo portrays both loses by interspersing recently filmed footage of her family with 20-year-old home videos and Cuban media coverage. Recent footage of her grandfather eating alone at a table for two cuts to a scene 20 years ago, as his wife prepares food for the family's Christmas celebration. The Cuban speeches and moments, Acevedo says, "help to contextualize the loss my family is going through: leaving Cuba for a better future in the United States and having one family member pass away is a harsh blow for my family, who are still finding life in the United States a daily struggle."

Acevedo says she doesn't see much about the lives of Cubans immigrants covered by American media. In highlighting her own family's struggles, she says she found herself questioning if their migration to the United States was worth it. "The answer for them is mostly a yes," says Acevedo, "but at what cost to self, to home, to a way of life?"

Watch Milagroso Azul (Miracle Blue) on Vimeo.

In Future Dreams is not available online due to copyright concerns.