Screen&Discuss Event at Community Church of Boston: New Immigrant and Refugee Visions

April 5, 2024

Filmmakers Qin Li, Mubarak Muwonge Nsamba, and Mohammed Arifuzzaman, and CSFilm director Michael Sheridan, were honored to present three films from New Immigrant and Refugee Visions (NIRV) to the Community Church of Boston. The screening was followed by a discussion about immigration and refugee issues in the US.

Since its founding in 1920, the Community Church of Boston has been made up of an inspired group of individuals coming together to educate themselves, discuss pressing issues, and explore the spiritual roots of peace and justice. Their notable speakers include Martin Luther King, W. E. B. Du Bois, Sarojini Naidu, Angela Davis, and John Haynes Holmes.

NIRV is a collection of ten documentary films by and about immigrants. These short films, released in 2018, provide a unique insiders’ perspective on the integration challenges immigrants face and the contributions they make to our culture, economy, and social fabric. The filmmakers made these short films to engage communities in dialogue about immigrants and immigration in the United States.

Chinese immigrant Qin Lee shared her film, Campaign for a New American, about the daughter of Indian immigrants campaigning to be elected to city council. If elected she would be the first woman of color in a working class town that has seen tension between people from different ethnic backgrounds.

Mubarak Muwonge Nsamba, turns the camera on himself and his family in Pulse of a Dream. He struggles to understand why he, his wife and most of their fellow Ugandans, with degrees in other professions, are working as nursing assistants. He’s surprised to discover that the Ugandan version of the American dream involves taking care of America’s sick and elderly.

Bangladeshi immigrant, Mohammed (Roman) Arifuzzaman, documented Mohammad Anwar’s first months as a Rohingya refugee in the US, in Seeking Settled Ground.  Anwar escapes persecution in his native Myanmar, survives near death as a refugee and is finally granted asylum in the United States. Now he faces unimaginable obstacles as he struggles with a new language, the need for job skills – having only worked as a subsistence farmer – and the challenges of integrating into a new world and culture.

The discussion began with questions from the filmmakers to the audience:

    1. What do you relate to in the films? What reminds you of things in your own life? Or conversely, what feels unfamiliar, new, or surprising?
    2. How are the immigrant family relations depicted in the films similar or different than yours?
    3. Some describe the US as a melting pot and others as a salad bowl? What is your opinion of this distinction and how does it effect you?

For some in the audience it was empowering to learn that people from other countries of origin were facing challenges like their own. The discussion lead us to learn of the remarkable achievements of the three filmmakers since coming to the US. Mubarak was only three months in the US when starting the NIRV training. With four children and full time work he managed to complete a Masters degree in data sciences from Northeastern University and is now in the job market. Qin came to the US having been a professor of women’s issues in China. Her family struggled with basic survival and raising their two young children. Now that the boys are in school she has blossomed as a Program Manager at Families First. Roman was not allowed to work when he first came to the US but now he is working as an IT specialist at CVS – and has taken up the violin!

What was emphasized during the discussion is that it is up to those that believe in the US as a nation of immigrants, to counter the lies and misinformation that is permeating the current dialogue about new immigrants and refugees in the US. It is incumbent on all of us to speak out against xenophobia and hatred toward the newest members of our communities.

Thank you for your interest and support

CSFilm continues to move forward, thanks to your commitment to lifting local voices.

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