When people feel connected and included they thrive and that is exactly what Project Enye is accomplishing through the work of this multi-platform documentary project.

Project Enye was started by Oscar nominated Henry Ansbacher and filmmaker Denise Soler Cox in 2013, and inspired by Soler Cox’s very own identity struggles growing up so she decided to co-create this project to give a voice to the varied experiences of first-generation bicultural Latinos, allowing them to share what it’s like being an American-born child to parents of Spanish-speaking countries.

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I wish I would have come across this project before I published my own story Somewhat Lost Between Two Worlds, where I talked about my very own experience of being confused between two worlds because although I am an immigrant to this country and Project Enye deals with American-born children there’s a lot of similitudes. I am not a first generation Latino born in the U.S., but I am glad I came across this project because I can relate to Cox’s identity struggle and can see how this helps embrace our unique cultural identities.

In a recent phone interview, I had the opportunity to speak to Henry and Denise and what an honor it was to have had the time to hear about their project, vision and upcoming big developments for Project Enye in 2016.

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Overview

Cox: This January it will be 4 years ago that I decided to pursue an idea that I had for 17 years up to that point. I had this “aha” experience while living in Miami. I was out with some friends, we were laughing and joking around and all of a sudden I felt this deep connection to my friends in a whole new way and I was trying to figure that out because these moments are so few and far between in life.

And I was wondering what was so special about tonight?

What was so unique?

“Everyone around the table was first-generation, American-born like me. And the things we were talking, joking and laughing about were all related to what it is to be an Enye, but I didn’t have a word for it or an experience to relate it to other than something that I thought that was just very personal to me,” said Cox.

The filmmaker recalls how up to that point she felt trapped and challenged between two worlds and cultures. Although for many people her life experience seemed awesome because she was had twice the culture she always felt as if there was another side that was confusing. She remembers how sometimes she didn’t know her place because she felt as if she was on the outside of both worlds looking in. That night she felt very connected to that group of friends and realized if they were all feeling the same way she felt determined to make a documentary.

“I want as many people as I could manage to tell, that they are part of this world and that we all belong here,” said Cox and added that 4 years ago she made a vow to herself to take action on Project Enye and met with Ansbacher to pitch and discuss the project.

Ansbacher: Documentaries are most effective when focusing in an individual story so we’re telling Denise’s personal story. We wanted to focus on how she came to this realization of a shared experience with those 16 million Enyes in the U.S. This project is an international story. There’s so many people that have been displaced and have migrated from one place to another. And the experience of growing up in a new culture with parents from another culture is very distinct and it’s happened.

Ansbacher sees that the awakening of identity that Cox had was a profound transformative experience and if that could happen for those with a similar story a lot would be accomplished.

Multiplatform Documentary

Ansbacher: It’s a very current and modern approach on how we are sharing the story so that we can have the biggest impact. We realized that we couldn’t wait for a traditional dimensional broadcaster and we decided to release content while we were making the film. We wanted to build a community around the idea before we even got a broadcaster on board and before we had a film completed. We released weekly content, 15 episode podcasts and 15 micro-docs in our first season online. These 3-5 minute documentaries tell a story of an Enye. It focuses on one character and tells the story in their own voice and their own perspective. We also have other partner websites where the content is syndicated.

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Cox: We have been really fortunate to have partnerships with online distributors and one of them is AOL. They are one of our biggest partners and on their platform they are distributing our content regularly each week and they released it and it just exploded. Other partnerships include E! Online, Fox News and CNN.

How is this project inspiring a cultural awakening? 

Cox: I don’t know that we set out to inspire a cultural awakening. My original intent was to make these people feel deeply connected to something and what is so awesome is that it has inspired this cultural awakening. We have screened the film, which is not complete, a few times and people feel reconnected with their Latino side. For instance, Vanessa Santana came up to me after a screening and told me that for the longest time she pronounced her last name Santana (Americanized) and after she saw the film she is going to begin pronouncing her name in Spanish because she realizes the importance in caring on with proper pronunciation.

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How do you keep your own culture and language alive? 

Cox: I love to cook and I love cooking for my friends, Latino and non-Latino and I would say that if there’s one thing that keeps my culture alive is cooking. I have all my mother’s recipes. I was recently with my cousin and she shared with me her grandmother’s recipes too.

Words of advice for the younger generation going through the same identity crisis that you went through in the past:

“There’s a place for us,” just like the song. Lol

Cox: I would tell them it visit Project Enye and go there as fast as you can and become part of this community and contribute to it. And also that there’s no shame in feeling confused. And there’s no shame in wondering about all of this and even talking about it.

What has this project taught you about yourself that you did not know before about you? 

Cox: I learned how deeply-rooted my shame was around language and not being able to speak Spanish as fluently as I would like. I knew that I had shame, but I had no idea the depth of it, to which it really controlled me and my actions. And I had a really awesome experience about one year ago. I had this transformative experience that completely gave me a chance to re-wire my brain about it, let go of the shame, be okay with the fact that my Spanish could be improved and the project has really taught me to be gentle with myself.

Additionally, in recognizing the importance of the letter ñ, Project Enye (ñ), in partnership with Sofrito For Your Soul, launched #WhereInTheWorldIsTheÑ, a public campaign rallying Spanish speakers (Latinos and non-Latinos) to ask Twitter to enable and support the use of the letter ñ in a Twitter handle and Cox gave an update.

“They have not responded. I wish I could be a fly on the wall on the person’s desk that this landed on and I hope that they are still fighting for it because in less than 30 days we got more than 2 million exposures and it was insane,” said Cox. “We continue to hope that they will make the change and we have not been contacted.”

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The Future of Project Enye

Cox: I hope that the letter ñ is incorporated into our vernacular just like x and y. So if someone says I am a Puerto Rican ñ, I am daughter of a Costa Rican ñ or the great grandchild of a Dominican ñ everybody will know what that means. And that it will offer up a short-hand that we have yet to have. And my hope is that many people see the film and experience the awakening and that the world is just a little bit different because a bunch of people decided that they were connected to something.

If someone reading this post would like for Project Enye to visit their city like in a school or in a college the co-creators would be more than happy to speak to you to make this appearance possible and they’d like to connect.

Project Enye has lined up a 20 city tour playing across film festivals internationally in 2016. See them in festivals, collegiate screenings, high schools and community screenings. Los Angeles is on the list for the city tour! So stay tuned and learn more about Project Enye.

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