Broadening the Discussion about Immigration
By Michael Sheridan for the Blue Mountain Center
In 2010, I founded Community Supported Film (CSFilm) in Boston with a mission to provide intensive training in documentary filmmaking to storytellers and activists in under- or mis-represented communities. After completing projects in Afghanistan and Haiti, we turned our attention to immigrants and refugees living in the U.S.
New Immigrant & Refugee Visions (NIRV), the third major project of Community Supported Film
(CSFilm), seeks to empower immigrants-turned-filmmakers to tell their own stories, ones which are often overlooked by mainstream media. In counterpoint to the national conversation about building walls, enacting a travel ban, and repealing DACA legislation, the NIRV trainees are producing stories that focus on the integration challenges faced by immigrants and the contributions they make to our culture, economy and social fabric.
The current NIRV trainees were chosen based on their experience with storytelling (in genres spanning from theater to print journalism); a demonstrated interest in social, economic and cultural development issues; and their plans for how they will use the skills learned to benefit their community and/or professional growth.
The ten trainees participating in the current NIRV project are:
•Abdirahman Abdi (Somalia)
•Braulio Tellez Vilches (Cuba)
•Kebrowsen “Kiki” Densamo (Ethiopia)
•Sayed Hashimi (Afghanistan)
•Katsyris Rivera Kientz (Puerto Rico)
•Qin Li (China)
•Mubarak Muwonge Nsamba (Uganda)
•Wilson Thelimo Louis (Haiti)
•Rafael DeLeon (Dominican Republic)
•Mohammad Arifuzzaman (Bangladesh)
Boston-based immigrant and refugee support organizations including the International Institute of New England, the New American Center, and Women Encouraging Empowerment collaborated with CSFilm on outreach and trainee education.
The 188-hour training and production process began July 29, 2017 and concluded in November after having covered all aspects of documentary filmmaking—from the technicalities of capturing compelling video and sound to writing a treatment. In addition to the time spent in the training, participants are expected to scout locations, coordinate logistics, and shoot their films using professional cameras and equipment provided by CSFilm. The trainees receive significant support from CSFilm editors who help each emerging filmmaker realize their vision and create a powerful final film.
The ten films include stories about:
—The Fiins, a Somali family struggling with inter-generational tensions around adapting to American culture;
—The Ranas, Indian immigrants whose daughter is campaigning to be elected as the first woman of color on the city council of Revere, Massachusetts; and
—Annabelle, an undocumented woman from the Dominican Republic, who faces deportation (if DACA legislation is not renewed) to a country she has not set foot in since she was four years old.
CSFilm is now approaching the final phase of the project when the ten short films will be screened across the U.S., starting late January 2018, with the objective of informing public opinion and influencing decision-makers. The organization is seeking venues in the greater Boston area and nationwide to screen some or all of the films created by the NIRV filmmakers.
The goal is to use these events to inspire conversation, enhance understanding of the immigrant experience, and motivate action to advance social justice and conflict resolution. The BMC community is invited to host a NIRV screening, to request more information, or to make a contribution in support of the project. Please call or email us at +1 (857) 415-0564 or info [at] csfilm dot org, www.csfilm.org
Michael Sheridan, Founding Director CSFilm, New Immigrant and Refugee Visions Lead Trainer;
“I was at BMC during the ‘Cost of War’ focused residency,” he expalins, “and it was really a great time to get feedback on the work that CSFilm was doing as well as to learn a great deal about other organizations and individuals concerned about similar issues.”
Over the past 20 years, filmmaker, educator and activist Michael Sheridan has engaged the public in stories about people in poor and developing communities in Asia, Africa and the Americas who are challenging the status quo and struggling to improve their lives. In 1996 he co-founded Oxfam America’s documentary production and since then has worked to break new ground in the effective use of media to educate and change policy. While training dozens of men and women through CSFilm, he has taught documentary filmmaking for 15 years on university faculties and served as a Senior Fulbright Scholar in Indonesia from 2007-2008.