HIAS | We Open Our Hearts to Them


Ailisec and Divine both fled their home countries — Venezuela and Uganda — to escape oppression and direct threats to their lives. HIAS, the world’s first Jewish refugee resettlement agency, welcomed them with open arms and helped them rebuild their lives safely in a new country.

For HIAS’s first annual gala, we produced this short film highlighting their refugee resettlement work in Kenya and Ecuador. SideXSide Studios worked alongside HIAS to tell Ailisec and Divine’s stories while ensuring their continued safety. We helped HIAS find the best stories to feature, hired and remotely directed a local crew in Kenya for a multi-day shoot, and simultaneously sent our production team to Ecuador. While in Ecuador, we quickly adapted our filming plan to unexpected civil rest after the repeal of gas subsidies, as riots and clashes with the police broke out across Quito. We immediately extracted our team, while our film subjects, who were being targeted with violence, sheltered in place. The following week, once the subsidies were put back and turmoil in the capital died down, we returned to finish production.

This short film debuted at HIAS’s gala in New York City, and was shared on its social media channels.



Gabe Silverman

Executive Producer

Jamie Coughlin


Deanna Del Ciello

Director of Photography, Ecuador

Kathryn Carlson

Director of Photography, Kenya

Zippy Kimundu

Photography, Kenya

Brian Otieno

Photography, Ecuador

Isadora Romero


Liza Slutskaya, Kathryn Carlson

Additional Photos