Thank you to everyone who joined us at the Brooklyn Public Library in Brooklyn, NY for a CSFilm New Immigrant and Refugee Visions (NIRV) Screen & Discuss event. We were excited to share this work in Brooklyn, where 37.5% of the population were born outside the US (2015 data).
Michael Sheridan, Community Supported Film (CSFilm) Founder and Director, kicked off the event with an introduction of CSFilm and the NIRV project. Our goal is to strengthen communities by amplifying stories through local points of view. NIRV achieves this by equipping new immigrants with the filmmaking skills necessary to provide unique insider perspectives on the socioeconomic and cultural contributions made by immigrants. The project also highlights the integration struggles faced by new residents in the US.
The audience viewed two NIRV films: Campaign for a New American by Qin Li of China, about an Indian family whose daughter ran as the first woman of color for city council. This was followed by She’s an American Child by Rafael DeLeon of the Dominican Republic, about the uncertainty faced by an undocumented mother and daughter as they grapple with potential deportation to a country the daughter has not called home since she was five. The discussion afterwards featured the participation of NIRV Filmmaker Rafael DeLeon.
During discussion, the audience encouraged us to reflect on how these films can be used as tools for open dialogue between people who have opposing views on immigration. “At what point do you move from stories to data and action?” This gave us two questions to think about: How do we present immigration facts while still putting people first? How can we make sure to humanize experiences surrounding immigration? “Our approach to filmmaking is to show, not tell; the films try not to be didactic. We believe that experiential rather than analytical stories are more conducive to engaging people in a conversation. Our objective is for the films to stimulate people to ask questions about the issues and their assumptions and opinions rather than tell the viewer what the answers are and what they should do. We believe that viewers first need to wonder.” said Michael Sheridan.
Filmmaker Rafael DeLeon addressed the reality that many immigrant communities are resistant to speaking up. He urged us to remember the importance of cultural sensitivity, and the strength of human connections.
We are particularly grateful for the small group discussions, which served as a reminder of how important open dialogue can be for learning within communities. As one participant wrote in their feedback: “I loved the opportunity to turn and talk with a stranger. It happens so rarely.” 63% of the audience said they felt or thought differently as a result of the experience, and 100% felt motivated to act!
Did you know that you can organize a Screen & Discuss event in your community too? It is one of many steps you can take! You will find more ideas for action and lots of resources for learning more about the facts and ways you can engage, in our detailed Action Toolkit on our website (view online or download the 14-page PDF).
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Many thanks to our friends, our financial supporters, and to Melissa Morone and Janel Peterson of the Brooklyn Public Library for believing in our work and inviting us to screen the NIRV films in Brooklyn!