Isabel Soloaga, Director / Producer

Hi, I'm Isabel.

I'm the director and writer of Growing Up in America: Life After the Taliban. I'm a filmmaker and freelance  journalist who hopes to provide windows into new worlds through dynamic, reflexive approaches and vérité. I hold an MA in Migration and Global Development with distinction from the University of Sussex. 

Previously, I worked in humanitarian relief efforts throughout Europe and the United States. I bring over six years of firsthand experience to the subjects explored in this documentary. This film is a reflection on the meaning of home and identity, written together with the family it follows as they transition from life in war-torn Afghanistan to their new homes in the U.S. 

I am honored to be a 2021 CNN + Film Independent Fellow and Bay Area Video Coalition Bridges Fellow. 

Najaf Ali, Co-Director, and I met in Fort Bliss, Texas in August 2021.  Ali was sent to the base after escaping narrowly from Kabul. There, I was working with the International Rescue Committee as a first responder. 

We  met on a lunch break.

Understanding the need to share this story, we decided to co-direct this project together.

You can find my films and publications on my website:

Meet Najaf Ali.

Najaf Ali Mohammady was about to graduate from Kabul University when the  Taliban took over his hometown. 

Since fleeing to Sacramento only a year ago, he has sought ways to share his story.  He prays to one day bring his mother and father and rest of his family to safety in the U.S. He tells his family's story as co-director.

Ali Mohammady, Co-producer / Videographer 

Meet Daniel.

Daniel is an award-winning Mexican filmmaker. He studied at the Escuela Nacional de Artes Cinematográficas in Mexico City. He graduated with an MFA in Documentary Film at Stanford University. His film El Cisne was awarded the UNAFF Youth Vision Award (2017) and the Audience Award at the Morelia International Film Festival (2016). He edited the documentary 499 (Dir. Rodrigo Reyes), which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival (2020). At the festival, Daniel was nominated for Best Editing in a Documentary. Currently, he’s editing two features, Sansón y yo (Dir. Rodrigo Reyes) and Sanctuary Rising (Dir. Florencia Krochik & Theo Rigby). He acts as editing supervisor on this project. 

Daniel Chávez-Ontiveros

Meet Alex.

Alexander Arntzen writes orignal music for Growing Up in Amercia: Life After the Taliban.  He is an award-winnning Film Composer & Singer/Songwriter of multiple genres, styles, and mediums. His latest projects include original music for feature films Last Man Down (Netflix Top 10 Movies), Initiation (2020 SXSW Film Festival), & Unmothered (HBO Max). He has also enjoyed being an integral part of doing additional music on 3 Animated TV Series including one Original for Netflix.

During the Summer of 2010 Alexander was honored to accept an internship with Hans Zimmer. In the Summer of 2013 Alexander had the privilege of interning for Danny Elfman and assist with transcribing scores for his concert, "Danny Elfman's Music from the Films of Tim Burton".

Meet Cynthia. 

Cynthia Rahman is a global studies major and human rights minor at UC Berkeley. She is the social media coordinator for Growing Up in America: Life After the Taliban. 

Meet Ronnie.

Raymond Marto is an Assistant Editor on Growing Up in America: Life After the Taliban. 

Filmmaker's Statement

This story grew out of a friendship that started with a "hello" in a dusty refugee camp in Texas six months ago.

I was working with NGO staff to resettle Afghan Special Immigrants evacuating Kabul. Ali had just escaped from Afghanistan and was awaiting resettlement in Sacramento, my hometown. 

We decided to make a documentary exploring his family's journey together. 


Prioritizing people and the filmmaking process, this documentary follows one resilient family as they build belonging in their new home of Sacramento. As a filmmaker, I seek to harness collaborative approaches that empower individuals to share their stories. My films prioritize nonlinear storytelling and character-driven narratives that bring viewers the experience of stepping into another’s shoes. 

Since 2016, I have been involved in hands-on humanitarian aid projects in refugee camps across Europe and the United States. I hold an MA in Migration and Global Development from the University of Sussex and a BA from University of California, Berkeley. Previously, I was Communications Coordinator for Washington Immigrant Defense Network. In addition to my work in film, I work with Freedom House as an research analyst investigating transnational repression and as an administrator for the nonprofit, Care4Calais.