The Neighborhood Storyteller

War tragically pushed Asmaa out of her home country, Syria, where her destiny had been written as a wife and mother with only 16 years of age. Asmaa rebuilt her adult identity as the neighborhood storyteller and began using reading aloud to children for fun as a bridge to tackle critical issues in her new community at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

Six years later, with Asmaa’s first born daughter reaching adolescence, a flashback of her education deprived past emerges and inspires her to embark on a new read aloud project to empower teenage girls to build a future of opportunities she never had. Despite her complex living situation as a refugee and the community’s conservative mindset, Asmaa is determined to raise a conscious generation of successful women.

The Neighborhood Storyteller is a documentary feature film that explores human resilience, the transition from child to adult and one's capacity to turn hardships into an opportunity for self growth.

  • Alejandra Alcala
    Hot Dogs on a Tricycle, No Single Origin
  • Francisco Alcala
    Hot Dogs on a Tricycle, No Single Origin
  • Home Storytellers
    Production Organization
  • Alex Garcia
    Director of Photography
    The Offering, The Inner Code, The Days to Come
  • Bernardo Castro
    Original Score
    Siempre Yo, The Other Side of Fear, Las Siete Muertes
  • Takek Abu Ghoush
    Sound Recordist
    Deserted, The Alleys, Held for Ramson, Star Wars: Episode IX
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature
  • Runtime:
    49 minutes 32 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    November 19, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    142,500 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United Arab Emirates
  • Country of Filming:
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Mountainfilm Festival
    United States
    May 27, 2022
    World Premiere
    Women in Film Award
  • Toronto International Women Film festival
    Best Human Rights Documentary Film, Best Poster
  • Dubai Film Festival
    United Arab Emirates
    May 12, 2022
    Honorable Mention
  • Amsterdam Short Film Festival
    Best Documentary Short
  • The Women's Film Festival
    United States
    Official Selection
  • Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival
    Middlebury Vermont
    United States
    Official Selection
  • Immigration Film Festival
    Washington DC
    United States
    Official Selection
  • DUQUMENTA International Film Festival
    August 6, 2022
    Mexico Premiere
    Official Selection
  • Docs Without Borders
    Rehoboth DE
    United States
    Excellence Award
  • Peloponnisos International Documentary Festival
    Official Selection
  • Sharjah International Film Festival for Children and Youth
    United Arab Emirates
    Official Selection
  • Docuworld Film Festival
    United Kingdom
    May 14, 2023
    Best Picture Documentary
Director Biography - Alejandra Alcala

Alejandra Alcala (Mexico, 1991) graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design at the Istituto Europeo di Design, Barcelona. After working as a Creative Strategist in a Communication Agency for MWC, the largest tech event in Barcelona, she decided to enter the audio visual world through a Postgraduate Degree in Motion Graphics, Post-Production and 3D Design. For the last 4 years, Alejandra has been fully dedicated to HOME Storytellers as Co-Founder and Creative Director. While she still practices as a Visual Designer, she has evolved into a full time documentary filmmaker taking on the role as Creative Director and Editor of award-winning short documentary film, Hot Dogs on a Tricycle (HOME Storytellers, 2019), Co-Director and Editor of award winning, No Single Origin (HOME Storytellers, 2020). Alejandra directed her first feature film, The Neighborhood Storyteller (HOME Storytellers, 2021), and as a first time director she is proud to have won Mountain Film Festival Women in Film award.

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Director Statement

On the surface, Asmaa and I seemed very different. We come from distinct backgrounds, cultures, languages, religions and situations. But it didn't take long for me to realize that we had more in common than I’d ever imagine. We are two women the same age trying to make a difference in the world through storytelling. On an even deeper level, we are two humans trying to find meaning and transcendence. These parallelisms have led to a fascinating and very emotional journey as a filmmaker. Asmaa’s courage and strength has allowed me to face my own fears and overcome the enormous challenge of producing this film during the pandemic in a foreign country and language.

The more we talked and the more the team and I understood her living situation, we couldn't help wonder, what drives someone facing adversity and hardship to turn it into an opportunity for change? Where does the motivation come from? This became our driving motor. This documentary is also a reflection of the framework and philosophy of The Big Heart Foundation's local Jordanian partner and grantee, We Love Reading, told through Asmaa's story. It brings to light the importance of empowering refugees with agency, autonomy, voice and ownership.

I hope Asmaa's story will inspire others as it has inspired me. I hope Asmaa can lead the way towards important systematic changes and even more so I hope it can help confront people and remove stigmas from society.