All Things Assyrian
Assyrian Student Filmmaker Creates Documentary on Detroit's Chaldeans
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Emmalina Matti.
When Wayne State University honors student Emmalina Matti began filming a short documentary about Detroit's Chaldean American community, she wasn't just gazing into a camera lens. She also got a chance to look through her father's eyes.

"I interviewed my dad because he kind of was the story of our community," said Matti, who is producing the film as part of a first-year seminar course titled Creating i.Detroit, which was created through a partnership between faculty at Wayne State's Irvin D. Reid Honors College and the Human Atlas project, led by photographer Marcus Lyons. "He embodied how it happened. He came here from Iraq as a young person, lived in Detroit, moved out and still went to school in Detroit. And he succeeded and lives a good life today. My film isn't just a story about my dad, but he was an inspiration to me."

Matti said the film aims to provide a brief but colorful overview of the history, culture and community of the more than 200,000 Chaldean Americans who've called metro Detroit home for more than a century. In the film, she interviews a priest from a local Chaldean American church, a Chaldean American law student and community members. The interviews are interspersed with music, singing and scenes from Chaldean American worship services.

In addition to receiving her father's support, Matti also got boosts from many others in the Chaldean American community, including the media. Her persistence led to an agreement with the Chaldean News -- a monthly news magazine dedicated to Chaldean American issues -- to publish her documentary on the newspaper's website once she completes the film this spring.

The arrangement with the newspaper perfectly illustrates the strength of the Wayne State's ongoing College to Career initiative, which provides students like Matti with networking opportunities and hands-on, "learning by doing" experiences with real-world professionals that are designed to better prepare WSU graduates for the professional ranks.

"Our award-winning faculty in the Irvin D. Reid Honors College guides students in conducting community-focused research projects each semester," noted Elena Past, acting dean of the Honors College. "This particular project exemplifies what happens when a particularly motivated student finds new and meaningful ways to connect coursework to communities beyond the university. It is the best of what a top-tier urban research university can do."

Matti said she's grateful that the university is dedicated to student success both in the classroom and beyond.

"I wanted to go to Wayne State because my dad went to Wayne State," she said. "And Wayne State has become like a home. I feel safe here. I am excited to come to school every day. I feel like I found my inner peace being here. Everyone just wants to help you. I tell people when you go to school here, they're never trying to look down at you and work down at you. They're working with you side by side."

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