July 3, 2006

Beyond borders: Kentucky Refugee Ministries aim to open eyes with film fest

    The Republican political machine has taken great advantage of the immigrant boogeyman over the past few months. Largely, they’ve concentrated on the economic impact — both real and imagined — of undocumented aliens and have proposed such unfeasible solutions as a Great Wall of America to stem the tide. Read between the lines, and you can see that white American is deeply afraid of our communities’ increased racial diversity.Images courtesy of Kentucky Refugee Ministries: Scenes from films to be shown at this year’s Refugee Film Fest.    It’s an issue that Kentucky has had to deal with much less than other states. According to the 2000 census, ours is one of the least diverse states in the union — more than 90 percent white, with only 1.5 percent Hispanic. But we have seen an influx of refugees into Louisville. The resettlement of immigrants and refugees has accounted for a whopping 50 percent of our growth in the last 15 years.    This has been a hot issue in Europe for many years, but Americans are largely ignorant of our refugee policies. Louisville’s refugees have been met with, save for some important exceptions, overall disinterest and occasional suspicion.     But if you know the worlds these people have left, it would be hard not to be moved by their stories. That’s why the Refugee Film Fest, sponsored by the Kentucky Refugee Ministries, will try to widen our understanding of the people who have come to Louisville because they have no other place to go. It will be showing at 3 p.m. at U of L’s Ekstrom Library for three consecutive Sundays starting July 9.     The first film will be “Balseros,” a documentary that follows the plight of some 50,000 Cubans who attempted to leave the economic and political desolation of Cuba in 1994. Some of them were immediately welcomed into the United States, but many more spent years in limbo, some stewing in Guantanamo Bay as the United States and Castro negotiated their fate.   Images courtesy of Kentucky Refugee Ministries: Scenes from films to be shown at this year’s Refugee Film Fest. On July 16, “The Letter” will be screened. A movie that has caused quite a stir, it shows what happened to one small Maine town that tried to deal simultaneously with the aftermath of 9/11 and with a huge influx of Muslim Somali refugees. Some combination of unable and unwilling to share his town with the refugees (whose country has been on the U.N. Failed States list for more than a decade), the mayor writes a letter advising the Somalis to discourage any of their family or friends from moving there. White supremacists make support for the letter a crusade, and the town is set for a bloody confrontation.     And on July 23, “Darfur Diaries” will wrap up the series. The documentary delves into the Sudan, whose government has been using roving militias to wage a war on its own citizenry. Immediately after coming into office, President Bush was quite impressively able to broker a peace between southern Sudanese Christian rebels and the Arab government. Since then, the Sudanese government has turned its attention to the Darfur region, which is not populated with a Christian minority. Shockingly (not), our president has done NOTHING to prevent the deaths of hundreds of thousands of these non-Christian men, women and children. Contact the writer at leo@leoweekly.com