If you’re reading this blog, chances are we have already reached out to you in hopes of becoming partners in this project. If not, please consider what I’m about to say in hopes that we may forge a relationship soon.
For the past couple of months, Nick, Peter and I have been meeting many influential and hard working people in the Triad refugee resettlement community. These meetings and budding friendships have been invaluable to us as we embark on this film and this project. The knowledge that has been shared with us will greatly serve our work and will hopefully lead to a really incredible project in the long run.
We view this film not just as a film but as a component of a greater project, something that can spark discussion and inform people that might not know about the refugee population in the Triad or in their own community elsewhere in the US and perhaps even the world. At the base of it all, we hope this film and its corresponding project will encourage viewers and participators to step outside of the boundaries that society, race and religion set for us to build bridges and relationships with a variety of people.
This project will continue to grow within the next year and beyond and we hope that you will join us in developing it. We’ve already discussed how to expand interest in the project through community screenings, curriculum, panel discussions, etc. We hope that these outreach components and events will encourage interfaith dialogue. If you have any ideas for the project or would like to collaborate, please contact us!
Also, please consider this an open invitation to share any ideas or thoughts you may have for us throughout this film and project. We welcome any comment and criticism and will consider your thoughts carefully.
November 12 & 14, 2011
Both of these shoots were successful not just in the quality of footage we were able to capture, but in the deeper understanding of Omer’s life and some of the struggles he faces. On Saturday night Omer organized and hosted a gathering of people in the Sudanese community from Greensboro. It was held just down the hall from the offices of African Service Coalition in downtown Greensboro. Roughly 25 people attended this little party, eating delicious food (can’t have a Sudanese party without it!) and socializing.
The highlight of the evening was the music. After dinner Alamin Khalifa got out his Arabic Lute and played and sang for everyone. We really enjoyed his music and hope to include some of it in the film. He is very talented. Afterwards people took turns reciting poems and telling stories.
On Monday morning we changed gears and observed Omer at work in his office. He seemed to always be on the phone, talking to his colleagues, or seeing the numerous refugees that come in and see him. He was trying to get as much work done as possible before 1 pm, as he wanted to go to his son Moyaed’s school to see him win an award. We really got the sense that Omer is trying to be all things to all people and is running himself ragged. He is trying to be a husband, a father, a social worker, and a community elder and spokesman, all at the same time; and for Omer, the consequences of not being all these things are high. At work, Omer deals on a daily basis with refugees with significant health problems, trying to find them jobs in a bad economy. At home, Omer is struggling to understand his children’s lack of interest in Sudanese culture. The fact is, Omer’s childhood in Sudan was incredibly different compared to his children’s life in America.
-Peter and Nick
Omer and his family, along with Muslims around the world, celebrated the religious holiday Eid al-Adha on Sunday. Omer and his family went to the Greensboro Coliseum where hundreds of Muslims from around the Greensboro area came to pray. Omer took the time to explain to us the meaning behind the Eid Celebration. There are actually two Eid Celebrations, one signifying the end of Ramadan, and the other marking the time when Abraham was asked by God to sacrifice his son Ishmael. This past Sunday’s Eid Celebration was the latter.
After prayers, Omer spent the next hour meeting many old friends. One friend in particular took the opportunity to ask Omer for help in going back to school. He doesn’t want to give up his well-paying job, but he also feels that education is the path to a better future. Omer listened intently, offered advice, and promised to help him in any way he could.
After greeting dozens of friends, Omer and his family went to the house of a relative for a meal. They graciously invited us along. There we met Omer’s extended family. As Omer sat on the couch we filmed a casual interview. We were also treated to a fantastic Sudanese meal. Some of the best food we’ve had in months!
Halloween is a distinctly American holiday, so we decided to follow Omer as he took his children trick-or-treating for the first time. We saw Omer a bit out of his element, trying to figure out what exactly to do. He ran into many of his neighbors, meeting some for the first time. Moyaed, as Dracula, and Mihad, as Supergirl, had a great time and took in a big haul of candy. Omer found some similarities between Halloween and the Muslim celebration of Eid and, even though he was unfamiliar with the details of Halloween he dressed up as a ghost and had a lot of fun.
-Nick and Peter
Saturday was a big day of shooting. We arrived at Omer’s house in the afternoon and met his family. His wife Neda and children Moyaed and Mihad were open and welcoming. After a traditional Sudanese dinner we sat down with Omer and interviewed him. He talked about his life in Sudan and what led him to escape first to the UK and eventually making it to the United States. He also spoke of how he views himself as an elder in the refugee community in Greensboro.
After our interview we filmed Omer with his children, and then conducting his evening prayers. Always the teacher, Omer took the time to explain to us (and thankfully the camera was rolling) the meaning behind the prayers and the importance Muslims put in daily prayer.
From there we accompanied Omer to the wedding reception of a refugee family he helped resettle. It was a large reception at Trinity Church on Friendly Avenue. Almost immediately upon entering the Church Omer was greeted by people he knew and had helped. The mother of the bride was especially happy to see Omer, and they joked about how she would soon become a grandmother. The reception was bright and exciting with lots of dancing and entertainment.
We spent a morning with Omer as he led his weekly staff meeting. Omer was truly in his element, dishing out advice, instruction, and listening to the concerns of his caseworkers. He is an active listener, making sure that everyone is involved and has a chance to share their concerns, but never straying too far from the overall goal of the meeting. It was clear from this meeting that working with refugees is not a just a job for Omer, it is a calling.We see this sequence as fitting into the film by way of establishing Omer’s responsibilities in the ASC, and the regulations placed on ASC by the Department of State that oversees refugee resettlement organizations. This sets the stage for the kind of relationship between the refugees and the resettlement organizations that is required by State Department regulations, and how Omer and ASC goes beyond it, forging bonds that go farther than a simple dependency on the organization.
This was a very informative shoot. We traveled to the Greensboro airport to film Omer pick up a Burmese refugee, named Toh Toh, who was coming to the U.S. for the first time. We showed up early to make sure we had a good sense of the situation and would be prepared when the action started. We were somewhat concerned about having trouble from airport security so we were being careful not to look like we were up to no good (or filming with professional equipment).
Omer came to the airport with Toh Toh’s two new roommates and we hurried to get everything set up because the flight came in a few minutes early. We struggled getting the wireless microphones to work and ended up just using the on-camera sound. We filmed Omer introducing himself and the two roommates to Toh Toh. Then we followed them down to the baggage claim and out to Omer’s car. It was a very quick sequence and we felt rushed trying to get a variety of shots in a short time. Despite the difficulties we had with the equipment we feel that we learned a lot about the process and will be better prepared the next time we go to film Omer meeting a refugee at the airport. We now know that the security people are less concerned with filming than we initially thought and that we need to be prepared for the flight to come in early. We will also be checking that the equipment not only works but works when we have all the components put together.
Our first day of shooting took us to Greensboro where we met up with volunteers and caseworkers from Church World Service. The task for the day was to pick up supplies (mattresses, dishes, furniture, etc.) at a local denim manufacturing plant and move them into two apartments in the same complex for two refugee families. It was great to document all the hard work that these volunteers put out to make a home for these newcomers.At this time we’ve decided to take our film in a slightly different direction, focusing on the work of Omer Omer at African Services Coalition (ASC) in Greensboro, our time spent with the people at Church World Service was invaluable in finding the human elements involved in this project. It was also great to make connections with other refugee resettlement organizations in North Carolina. Our hope is that our film is not just a film but a project, with involvement from many other organizations that work in refugee resettlement.