MAPLEWOOD, NJ - Millburn High School’s Ariel Riseman has made a name for herself during her three-year residence in Millburn-Short Hills. The Junior is well known for her cinematic work within the school, however word of Riseman’s talent behind the camera is spreading well beyond Millburn.
Riseman will represent Millburn in the South Orange-Maplewood Film Festival this weekend with her documentary short film Heba. The festival, which will take place from March 9-12, promises to honor student, local, international, and domestic filmmakers. Riseman's documentary is one of only five screened documentaries being screened on the Young Filmmakers Track.
Heba tells the true story of a Syrian refugee and her family’s escape from Aleppo to Turkey, eventually making their way to Elizabeth, New Jersey. The film details Heba’s transition to America and the struggles she faces trying to assimilate to a new culture.
“I think this story is really important to tell especially with everything that's going on since Trump has become president” said Riseman. “It’s important that people see her, and other refugees, and understand that they’re just like everyone else and that we shouldn't be afraid. They are really just people who need our help.”
Riseman and Heba first met about a year ago, but Heba initally reluctant to tell her story in fear of the potential social repercussions. Eventually, between today’s politics and Riseman's persuasion, the native Syrian agreed to allow Riseman to shine the spotlight on her story in her documentary.
Although this is Riseman’s first foray in the documentary style, it doesn't come as a surprise that she chose to pursue this topic. She believes her forte as a filmmaker is her ability to capture her passions in each movie and the recent election and immigration policies certainly became one of Riseman’s passions.
“I did support Hillary over Trump because I felt she was more accepting [of immigrants]” said Riseman. “Also, I disagree with Trump’s policy when it comes to refugees. That definitely had an effect on the making of the film.”
Riseman is excited by the prospect of representing Millburn and her local film community. “I have only lived here for three years. I feel like I’m probably not very well known in the Millburn community, but being able to represent Millburn in SOMA is great.”
The young filmmaker is poised to dazzle in her senior year as she continues to improve her craft and it seems like all roads lead to film school for Riseman following graduation from Millburn High School.