Nicole Opper, a graduate of the School of Cinema, fulfilled a years-old vow when her documentary premiered Visitor’s Day premiere at the AFI DOCS film festival last month.
At age 18, Opper volunteered at a home for abandoned, homeless children in Puebla, Mexico. Writing in her journal, she vowed to return later in life to make a documentary. Visitor’s Day, set at the IPODERAC home for 72 abandoned boys, tells the story of Juan Carlos, a runaway at age 10 who struggles for self-acceptance in the face of abandonment by his father.
The observational, 80-minute documentary follows Juan Carlos through the most transformative year of his life, as he finds the strength to return to his hometown of Mexico City to overcome his sense of abandonment and forgive his father for the past. Opper lived on the IPODERAC premises for a year to shoot the film.
“While this film is an intimate vérité portrait of one young man growing up at IPODERAC,” Opper says in her director’s statement, “I see this story as a beacon of hope, a tale of redemption and a positive depiction of our neighboring country in the midst of a storm of mainstream media that continues to focus almost exclusively on drug violence and ‘illegal’ immigration.”
AFI DOCS describes Visitor’s Day as “an affecting portrait of a neglected boy, striving for self-acceptance and maturity.”
Opper (M.F.A., ’15) received a Fulbright Fellowship to direct Visitor’s Day, which is also supported by New York State Council on the Arts, Chicken and Egg Pictures and the Independent Television Service.
Opper directed and produced the Emmy‐nominated documentary Off and Running, an audience favorite at the Tribeca Film Festival and winner of 10 international awards including Best Documentary at Outfest and Best Documentary Screenplay at Silverdocs. The film was nationally broadcast on PBS’ P.O.V. in 2010. Her short documentary, Mezzo, screened at this year’s Frameline festival in San Francisco. She’s also produced films for the Discovery Channel and Here TV, and was selected for Filmmaker Magazine’s annual “25 New Faces of Independent Film.” Opper has taught filmmaking at SF State, Stanford University and the Bay Area Video Coalition, among other schools.