Note: Moving Pictures is featuring the filmmakers from the CSWE 2013 Virtual Film Festival sharing the stories behind the making of their films. Here's how you can see the films and vote for the Virtual Ovation Award. The award consists of a $500 prize and will be presented to the top-ranked film in the Virtual Film Festival, as determined by the audience.
Maya Navon, a member of the Tufts team for Finding Refuge, explains below the genesis for the film and the inspiring example of refugee Mani.
Finding Refuge emerged from an extremely challenging, yet
enormously life-changing, college class. When we three filmmakers of Finding Refuge entered the
course “Producing Films for Social Change,” we had no idea that we were
about to begin an emotionally charged, fast-paced, and eye-opening period of
our lives. In September 2012, we did not know how to use a camera, edit a
clip, or even write a treatment. Over the course of 3.5 months, we learned each and every aspect
of creating a film, from the research stage to post-production, and emerged with a 20-minute piece that we were proud to share.
The idea for Finding
Refuge stemmed from a class
discussion about the topic of refugees. Armed with this very broad topic, we
preceded to contact various refugee organizations. After weeks of trying to
find just the right niche in this realm, we finally made a breakthrough with
the connection to Natasha Soolkin, director of the New American Center in Lynn,
MA. We knew that we wanted to focus on refugee resettlement in the
United States, and in particular, the various challenges and triumphs that
newly resettled refugees face when they arrive in the United States. However, we also knew
that this topic would have no impact without a personal story. We knew we
needed a refugee to share his or her experiences and that it would be no small feat
to find someone. Luckily, Natasha had just the person for us who would bring a voice to this issue: Mani.
Once we connected
with Mani, the documentary finally took shape. We spent countless hours
interviewing Mani and his family, touring his home and office, and getting a
glimpse into his new American life. We also spoke to a wide variety of experts
and workers in the field of refugee resettlement to gain a broader
understanding of the journey from a place of turmoil to a new life in the
United States. In a few months, we had our final product, a piece
that shed light on refugee resettlement through the story of one courageous,
hard-working, and resilient man.
Our connection with
Mani extended far beyond filmmaker and subject. He touched our lives with his
story and made us realize the true meaning of strength. After spending 17 years
in a refugee camp, Mani managed to keep his spirit and his thirst for success
alive. The perpetual smile on his face reminded us to always stay positive,
even in the face of hardship.