Monday, September 9, 2013

Behind the Screen: Nickel City Smiler.

Note: Moving Pictures is featuring the filmmakers from the upcoming CSWE 2013 Film Festival in Dallas, who will share the stories behind the making of their films. Filmmaker Scott Murchie talks below about the issues that resonated for him before, during, and after the making of Nickel City Smiler, a film about the plight of refugees in America's Rust Belt.

Photo courtesy of CEP Films
I met Smiler Greely in spring 2008 and soon became aware of the extraordinary struggle and hardship he and the Karen people endured as victims of the cruel Burmese military regime. Smiler has seen and experienced violence and inhuman conditions that most of us would consider a nightmare: People have been raped and slaughtered, and their villages burned. Survivors are chased across the border into Thailand. This had been life for the Karen people and other ethnic minorities in Burma for the last six decades. After fleeing to Thailand, Smiler was at the mercy of a refugee camp for more than 20 years—confined from the outside world, dependent on rationed food, and left without hope.

Fortunately, in 2008 Smiler and his family were selected to resettle to America with hope for a peaceful life and a chance to succeed. Sadly, their dreams of a new life in the United States were met with many challenges. Refugees are placed into poverty and dangerous neighborhoods where they continue to face the violence and discrimination they sought to leave behind. There are many individuals and groups willing to help, including ESL teachers, community churches, and nongovernmental organizations, but many times they are limited by their resources.

I felt compelled to give the refugees a voice by filming from their point of view over a 6-month period. Nickel City Smiler documents the refugees’ hardship and their incredible determination to one day live in peace and ensure a better future for their children.

Please watch Nickel City Smiler with an open mind, as we did while filming. Refugees are not looking for handouts; they are looking for a peaceful life, a chance to succeed, and a smile.

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