Three Trembling Cities Season 2
This show is an intimate portrait of the inner lives of NYC's immigrants. Season 2 follows several fictional circles of immigrants as they juggle jobs, relationships, family expectations, and their dreams. Their stories are intercut with interviews with immigrants who've faced similar issues.
Inclusion StatementOur series is about immigrants who've come to NYC from across the globe. Our cast members are themselves immigrants or first generation-born American sons and daughters of immigrants, as are a number of our crew members. Our cast & crew are roughly 50% female/male, and hail from five continents.
About The Project
Three Trembling Cities is an intimate portrait of the immigrants who make New York City’s heart tremble with hope. This fictional series follows and ultimately interweaves two immigrant narratives: those struggling to understand their identity and those simply struggling to survive. But overshadowing their efforts to navigate the challenges of jobs, roommates, relationships, dreams, and family expectations, is their status as outsiders — legally, emotionally and culturally. To contextualize our characters’ narratives, each episode is followed with documentary style interviews of real immigrants going through parallel experiences.
Our ambition is to counter the reductive nature of current political discourse that all too often demonizes immigrants, citing them as the cause of many of our problems. With Three Trembling Cities, we offer viewers the chance to experience the lives of contemporary immigrants from their perspective. As the series unfolds, the richness of our characters’ individual stories, the intensity of their dreams and the sacrifices they make reveal the range and complexity of their lives and place them squarely in the tradition of the American immigrant experience.
STORY - FIRST SEASON:
Three Trembling Cities seeks to explore the immigrant experience, and how it differs for each person based on background, desires, families, and immigration status. The series follows two “circles” of characters.
Urmi, Ilona, Azin, and Behrouz are part of the first circle. They're struggling with issues of identity. Where do they belong? What is their “home” country? Azin and Behrouz are siblings, wrestling with the influence of their families. Urmi and Ilona, best friends and fellow PhD candidates, are more recent arrivals, and their desire to be here is tempered by the restrictions of being on a student visa.
Babacar, Dawit, Abdul, Madha, and Sam are part of the second circle. They are struggling for survival. How do they make it here, with expensive rents, low-paying, difficult jobs, and very little security to fall back on? Babacar, Dawit and Abdul live together and work at the same restaurant. Madha and Sam are tight-knit cousins who share an apartment. Madha also works at the restaurant. All of them have higher aspirations ‑ Dawit and Madha want to go back to school, Babacar and Sam make jewelry and artwork, and Abdul wants to become a top chef.
Over the course of the first season, the viewers followed the first circle’s journeys, then the second’s, until they were brought together at the end. Each episode concludes with interviews with real immigrants who’ve gone through parallel issues.
MEET OUR CHARACTERS
Urmi (Nandita Chandra), from Simla, India, struggles with her dissertation and her separation from her husband, who recently went back to India.
Babacar (Yacine Djoumbaye), from Dakar, Senegal, works two jobs (washing dishes and delivering wholesale goods) while trying to start his jewelry-making business.
Behrouz (Arash Mokhtar) is an actor who hasn’t seen Tehran since his family left when he was a child. He wants to go back and reconnect with his past.
Azin (Sherz Aletaha) is an attorney and Behrouz’ sister. She’s finding it hard to live up to her parents’ and husband’s expectations and put in the hours at work.
Ilona (Tjasa Ferme), from Hungary, is Urmi’s roommate and best friend. She’s just out of grad school and disillusioned with New York and America.
Dawit (Peter Goitom), one of Babacar’s roommates and the head waiter at the restaurant he works at, is just happy to be alive but is haunted by his ordeal as a refugee from Eritrea.
Madha (Pascale Piquion) works as a waiter along with Babacar, was born in the US but raised in Guyana. She’s living with her cousin Sam, to save money so she can go back to school.
Abdul (Irungu Mutu), Babacar’s other roommate and the sous-chef at the restaurant, is from Kenya. He’s saving money to go visit his sister and trying to move up in the restaurant world.
Sam (Storm Gunraj), Madha’s cousin and roommate, is an artist and street vendor from Guyana.
We will return to the characters we introduced in Season 1, two years later. After the changes in immigration policy, how have their lives been affected? Some have closer to achieving their goals while others are encountering new difficulties.
Babacar continues to work a variety of jobs to send money back home, and he's become even more fearful of ICE raids. Abdul has pooled together enough money with some of his friends to open his own restaurant, though it means sacrificing a lot. Dawit is in school and working at an office job, but he's finding it hard to stay afloat financially even with tuition assistance. Madha is also back in school, and has become more aware of what immigration policy is actually like.
Urmi has finished her dissertation and is now in the precarious position of having 1 year to find a job in the US before she has to return to India. Azin, now further along as a partner, is on the verge of divorcing her husband. Behrouz was stuck in Iran during the travel ban and so lost his apartment, his day job and and is now scrambling for work. Ilona returns from Dubai, unsure of whether to stay there or give New York another go.
New characters: Amina (from Senegal) is the daughter of a friend of Babacar's, and her father has just been picked up by ICE. She's also undocumented and afraid to go home, or high school. Danny (from the Phillippines) is balancing dishwashing and music, trying to live the dream but having a hard time coming up with the rent every month. Peter, Yi and Mary are a family from China - Peter and Yi had a hardware store together that closed due to gentrification; Mary is their daughter, an ER nurse.
We wish to contribute constructively to the conversation about immigrant lives, rights, and the immigration process. We are partnering with immigrant rights groups, non-profits, schools, and art/film groups to present the series as a jumping-off point for these discussions.
Our first season was crowdfunded by members of New York’s immigrant community. The narratives are based on the personal stories and experiences they shared with us over time. One of our producers, Debarati Biswas, holds a PhD in English Literature from the Graduate Center, CUNY with a certificate in Africana Studies. Our crew and cast are accomplished and experienced.
AWARDS AND FESTIVALS:
The first season has screened at over 20 festivals, special events, and won 5 awards to date:
- Best Drama, UK Webfest
- Made In New York, Brooklyn Webfest
- Best Onscreen Diversity, Toronto Webfest
- Best Drama, Philly TV Fest
- Best Multicultural Webseries, Baltimore New Media Webfest
We've worked with Irondale Theater, the New York Public Library, the Queens Public Library, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, and the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival to present the project as part of a discussion on immigrants, immigrant rights and immigration policy.
"At a time when the public dialogue about immigration to the United States has never been more fraught, a beautifully executed new web series by filmmaker Arthur Vincie presents the exciting, terrifying, weird, experience of immigrant life in New York in gorgeous detail."
"But what separates the series is how it grounds its characters in real detail and specific heritages. They aren’t just from Africa , they’re from Eritrea and Senegal. Iranian immigrants aren’t just Muslims in the US, they’re conflicted about a homeland that expelled their parents and remains very much in transition. The show loves to dwell on the smaller moments, with dialogue that skillfully jumps from banter and sarcasm to bittersweet and touching."
[The characters] are neither tarted up in glamour drag to make them presentable, nor visualized pathetically. They have the natural beauty of people, and yes, these people are looking good. We meet them in a world made up of moments not long arcs; moving like water from one piece of New York to another, much in the manner of Hal Hartley films. No one asks for our understanding or compassion; they all shimmer invitingly in their personhood. Moreover, they embody what so many have noted about the clarity of perception of ‘outsider.’
WATCH OUR FIRST SEASON NOW
You can watch the entire first season on a number of platforms, including seeka.tv, viddsee, YouTube, Vimeo, DreamAfrica, Brooklyn On Demand, Stareable, and Amazon.
Use the WishList to pledge cash and loan items - or - Make a pledge by selecting an incentive directly.
About This Team
ARTHUR VINCIE, WRITER, DIRECTOR
Arthur has over 15 years of experience as a director and producer. In addition to creating and writing/directing season 1 of Three Trembling Cities, he wrote and directed the
"lo-fi" sci-fi feature Found In Time. It went to 27 film festivals and won six awards, including Best Feature at the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival and Best Sci-Fi Feature awards at Shriekfest and Intendence. Focal Press publishes his book on preproduction, Preparing For Takeoff: Preproduction for the Independent Filmmaker. He's written filmmaking articles for Indie Slate, Moviemaker, Stareable, Pro Video Coalition, FilmmakingStuff, and Mixform. His shorts have screened at various festivals and art venues across the globe. Arthur has line produced over 13 features and numerous shorts, industrials, and pilots. He holds a BFA from NYU.
DARIA SOMMERS, PRODUCER
Daria is a New York-based documentary and narrative fiction filmmaker. She co-directed and co-produced Lioness, winner of Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies Filmmaker Award at the Full Frame Film Festival in 2008, which was broadcast nationally on the PBS series Independent Lens. Daria’s previous films include Eastern Spirit Western World, which was broadcast by PBS, BBC, CBC, French and Chinese Television and premiered at the Smithsonian Institution, as well as the narrative Ready To Burn, recipient of the Panavision New Director’s Award.
She’s received awards from the NEH, the NEA, the Sundance Documentary Fund, Chicken & Egg Pictures, Rockefeller Family & Associates, The Open Society and NYSCA. She has been an artist-in-residence at the MacDowell Colony,and served on the Metropolitan Museum’s Program for Art on Film. Her work has screened at festivals around the world including Tribeca, Full Frame and Human Rights Watch Festival. Daria is a graduate of Oberlin College and co-founder of Room 11 Productions.
BEN WOLF, PRODUCER AND CINEMATOGRAPHER
Ben has over 20 years experience as a narrative and doc cinematographer. His recent work includes cinematography on the horror film Another Soul, the drama MAKI, the musical Life of an Actress, horror film She Wolf Rising, Arthur Vincie’s lo-fi sci-fi Found In Time, Shoja Azari’s Venice Biennale entry The King of Black, and additional photography on Art Jones’ award-winning Forbidden Cuba. He recently shot the web series Breeding Grounds and season two of The Other F Word.
Ben’s long-form doc work includes Amsterdam Stories USA (dir. Rob Rombout and Rogier van Eck), which won awards in Portugal and Serbia. Deceptive Practice (dirs. Molly Bernstein and Alan Edelstein), a film on the magician Ricky Jay, screened throughout the U.S. Food Chains (dir. Sanjay Rawal) premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. His work on Gold Mountain won him the Student Academy Award for Best Cinematography.
DEBARATI BISWAS, PRODUCER
Debarati holds a PhD in English Literature, with a certificate in Africana Studies, from the Graduate Center, CUNY. Her dissertation, "Brother Outsider: Gender, Nation and Sexuality in African American Men’s Literature, 1953-1971," examines neglected African American texts published during the Cold War period that challenged the then-dominant nationalistic paradigms of African American literary and political thought , and imagined alternate modes of belonging in spite of continuous displacement and dispossession.
Her research is supported by The Institute for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean (IRADAC) and The Provost’s Fellowship at CUNY Graduate Center. She's presented her work at the Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA), American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA), American Men’s Studies Association (AMSA), the Modern Language Association (MLA, where she also organized the panel), and at the IRADAC Fellows Symposium.
She teaches courses on African American Literature, Multi-Ethnic American Literature, and Literary Studies at CUNY’s Hunter College. Debarati hails from Kolkata, India.
NANDITA CHANDRA, Urmi
Hailed by critics as "wickedly funny" and "all verve and attitude", Nandita's multiple award-winning performance of the irresistible Stella in I-Pod is an off Broadway favorite. Bob Krakower attributes Chandra’s award-winning performances to "spontaneity that actors dream of…" Chris Shinn says, "Nandita's comic ability — agile, supremely intelligent, with depths of pain peeking out from below a scathing surface — is extraordinary…has true star quality."
TV credits include I Love You…But I Lied, The Leftovers, Taxi Brooklyn, White Collar, Curb Appeal.
Nandita is also dedicated to global philanthropy. She works with PPES, Humanity Without Borders supporting and promoting women’s rights, education for change and animal rights with Red Paws Rescue and The Humane Society.
Nandita is a proud graduate of Lady Sri Ram College and The New School for Drama. She has participated in readings and master classes at The LAByrinth Theatre, MCC Theatre, and Lark Theatre amongst others. She currently lives in New York.
YACINE DJOUMBAYE, Babacar
Yacine is an experienced actor who played the lead in the film Jungle that premiered at the Sundance film festival in 2016. He recently starred in in the feature film Snakehead (produced by Brian Yang, directed by Evan Leong). He has worked as both an actor and print model. Yacine grew up in Mali, West Africa and is fluent in French, Bambara and Haussa. He currently lives in New York.
ARASH MOKHTAR, Behrouz
Arash was born in Tehran, Iran, and raised primarily in Washington D.C. He spent many years traveling and working throughout the U.S. and Europe as an exhibiting visual artist before settling in New York City, and committing himself to the actor's life.
Arash has had lead and supporting roles in several indie films, including Black Site Delta, Bystander and Chosen, with Cathy Moriarty. Day 39, directed by Jesse Gustafson, was a finalist for the 2015 Student Academy Awards. It won the Gold Circle Caucus Award in LA for Best Student Film.
He's had roles on Madam Secretary, Veep, Forever, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Believe, Zero Hour, Elementary, Person of Interest, Political Animals, and NYC 2-2.
Selected NYC theater credits: Hamlet; Rhinoceros; Richard III; Coriolanus; The Servant of Two Masters; An Ideal Husband; Killer Joe; Closer; Hurlyburly. He lives in Brooklyn. Full credits and reel are available on arashmokhtar.com.
SHERZ ALETAHA, Azin
Sherz is a New York based actor/singer. Since graduating from the New School, Sherz has performed around the country from concert work in Boston to Rosie O'Donnell's Family cruise in Alaska where she shared the stage with some of Broadway’s most talented performers. In New York, she's appeared in shows at Lincoln Center, Ars Nova, The Metropolitan Room, Off-Broadway and Off-off Broadway in the musical Disaster! and at Dixon Place in Spring Alive as well as many readings and workshops of new/developing work. She can also be seen as Lauren in the award winning web series Wing Women.
If you want to laugh at her go to https://morethanonecher.wordpress.com or follow her on social media @morethanonecher.
TJASA FERME, Ilona
Tjasa is a versatile theater and film actress whose natural talents for the live arts manifested very early on. Born and raised in Slovenia, she started performing as soon as she could walk. Tjasa was accepted to the Master Program in performance at the prestigious National Acting Academy (AGRFT). In 2005-06, she was awarded the Sever’s Prize for classical theater roles, and in 2006, a Vesna Award (the Slovenian Oscar.) Her career quickly took an international turn: she appeared in film and theater projects produced in Germany, Italy, Brazil and France.
Tjasa’s NY theater credits include the sex comedy Cocktales: Confessions of a Nymphomaniac (written and performed by Tjasa, directed by Kira Simring); it premiered at The Abingdon Theatre, and was described by NYC critics as "nothing short of brilliant." The show ran for several weeks to sold-out houses and was later produced in Miami as part of Art Basel. She also directed and starred in the short Ophelia's Flip, which premiered at Cannes Film Festival in 2012. Her recent appearance in Before God Was Invented was praised by the nytheatre.com reviewer as "a standout performance."
PETER GOITOM, Dawit
Peter is an actor, singer, and comedian. He was recently in MTV Film's Girl Code. Stage credits include Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls, Othello in Othello, Feste in Twelfth Night, Turkel in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. He was a member of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Fundamentally Sound Men’s A Cappella group, lead singer in the band The Temp, and has performed sketches at UCB Chelsea's Liquid Courage.
PASCALE PIQUION, Madha
Pascale is an actress and producer, known for Vampires: Rise of the Fallen, Three Trembling Cities, Thick, and Last Night. She is currently appearing in the new play Les Boite Noire. She acted in and executive produced the TV movie Bye, Chance. Pascale lives in New York City.
IRUNGU MUTU, Abdul
Irungu's TV/film and webseries credits include Preacher, Elementary, The Blacklist, Boardwalk Empire, Maanokoobiyo (Sundance Directors Lab), Don't You See (Fahrenheit Films), The Feels (Manley/Lataillade Productions), Power, Bikini Moon and Oxalis.
Selected Off-Broadway/NY credits: Nollywood Dreams (Cherry Lane Theatre); Our Lady of Kibeho (Signature Theatre); Before and After NY (Performa 2015 Biennial); Bikeman (Tribeca P.A.C.); A King of Infinite Space (HERE Arts/NY SummerStage); Bronks Ekspres, The Moth & the Flame (Target Margin Theater), and Yellow Card Red Card at the Ohio Theatre.
Irungu graduated from UC San Diego and Rutgers University-MGSA. He studied abroad for a semester at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre-London. You can see more of his work at irungumutu.com.