NIRV Topic: Assimilation and Acculturation

Should the United States be a “melting pot” or “salad bowl?” Should our immigrant cultures melt into one-another or remain distinct?

Here are a selection of films from the New Immigrant and Refugee Visions collection – films by and about immigrants – that show how immigrants experience issues of assimilation and acculturation. Before you watch them, please review the “Questions-to-consider…” at the bottom of this page.

  • Worlds Apart at Home, by Abdirahman Abdi, 10 min – a Somali mother trys to hold on to her family’s religious and cultural traditions while facing the Americanization of her teenage children.
  • Navigating Hope, by Afghan refugee Sayed Najib Hashimi, 9 min – an isolated and self-supportive community of Bhutanese Christian refugees need help to pay bills and navigate daily life in America.
  • See more films on this theme.
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Worlds Apart at Home (Original 9:58, Excerpt 00:58)
Filmmaker: Abdirahman Abdi
Editor: Peter Rhodes; Additional Sound: Mubarak Muwonge Nsamba
Samira Ahmed Fiin escaped with her family from Somalia as refugees to the United States in 2007. Now she negotiates tensions between parents and teenagers – as the young try to fit into and enjoy American culture and the old try to hold on to their Somali traditions.
Abdirahman Abdi
Emigrated from Somalia in 2007, lives in Roxbury, MA
Abdi came to America as a young boy and has remained active in his local and Somali community. He has volunteered his time and multi-media production skills to advance the work of the Somali Development Center and the North American Somali Students Union. Abdi graduated in May 2018 from UMass Boston with a degree in media communications and sociology. With continued mentoring from CSFilm, he has continued since the NIRV training to produce short documentaries on economic and social issues in his Roxbury neighborhood.  Abdi was hired in 2020 as a freelance videographer and editor by Boston news station, WCVB-TV, Ch 5.
Discussion Resources:

About the filmmaker and film:

About the issues brought up by the film:
About Issues of Acculturation and Assimilation:

More information about refugees and immigrants.

Sayed Najib Hashimi
Emigrated from Afghanistan in 2016, lives in Washington, DC
Sayed grew up in Afghanistan and was a refugee in Pakistan. He has a degree in literature from Kabul University. He worked from 2005 to 2016 as a journalist and translator with the BBC and NATO Media Group in Afghanistan. In Nov 2016 Sayed and his family were granted permanent residency through the Special Immigration Visa to the United States. Until recently he worked at the New American Center in Lynn MA assisting Afghan and other new immigrants and refugees. He and his family now live in Washington DC where Sayed is working as a Communications Officer at the Afghan Embassy.
Discussion Resources:
About the issues brought up by the film:

Want to see more?

These other NIRV films also address assimilation and acculturation:

  • Seeking Settled Ground, by Mohammad Arifuzzaman, 13 min – about a newly arrived Rohingya refugee struggling to integrate;
  • She’s an American Child, by Rafael DeLeon, 11 min – an undocumented Dominican mother asks us to acknowledge that her DACA designated daughter is American in all ways but citizenship;
  • Campaign for a New American, by Qin Li, 11 min – an Indian immigrant mother acknowledges that she had to let go of her traditional expectations that her children would become doctors and engineers – they are American and do what they want to do – including running for City Council is a racially divided community;
  • The Arranger, by Wilson Thelimo Louis, 9 min – One Haitian immigrant helps other Haitian immigrants survive in America.

Questions to Consider While Watching These Films

  1. What is “American” culture? How much of the America that you know is the contribution of immigrants?
  2. 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 affect you?
  3. Have you ever been, or witnessed someone being, misunderstood, stereotyped or attacked for who they are, what they look like or what they believe? What does being American mean to you? What actions do you take to deal with these differences and confrontations?
  4. What stood out to you? What will you tell your friends about? 
  5. What did you relate to? What reminded you of things in your own life? 
  6. What felt unfamiliar, new or surprising?
  7. Can you think of an occasion when you changed your mind about an issue? What would change people’s minds about immigrants or immigration?
  8. What do you want to change in your community after “meeting” these immigrants and learning about their experiences? (e.g., Individual behaviors? Public policies? Local media perspectives of your immigrant neighbors?)