Journeys of Hope screened to help change perceptions about immigration

Red Deer stage show becomes a documentary film

Stories about the difficult journeys of five refugees to Red Deer are gaining a wider audience on film.

Journeys of Hope started out as a one-night theatrical, music and dance production that was co-created by the very people the stories are about — Asdolah Khierandish of Afghanistan, Monybany Dau of Sudan, Zeljka Udovicic of Croatia, and Ethel Suarez and her daughter, Anna, of Uruguay.

Now the film version, created by Rueben Tschetter of The Cache Project, is being screened around the community — and can also be seen around Alberta and the rest of Canada on the Internet.

The film’s producer, Jan Underwood, who works as public awareness co-ordinator at the Central Alberta Refugee Effort (CARE), always thought Journeys of Hope was too important a project for a one-night showing.

It premiered to a full house crowd on Oct. 1 at the Welikoklad Event Centre, from which 60 people were turned away.

Underwood believes the film’s positive message remains important. She doesn’t want to let last month’s angry anti-Syrian protest in front of a local high school — mostly by out-of-towners — and last weekend’s terrorism incidents in London to set the public mood.

“Extremist views are shared by a very small portion of people,” she stressed.

“Most (immigrants) feel the same way we do, ” and were put through a multi-step vetting process before being cleared for admission to Canada. “It takes a very long time.”

Underwood is planning several screening of Journeys of Hope, which includes behind-the-scenes documentary footage shot by Tschetter and interviews with the creative team, led by artistic director Jason Steele.

A free public showing will be held at 7 p.m. on June 20th, World Refugee Day, at the Welikoklad Event Centre.

Some of the former refugees, as well the rest of the cast, crew and creators, will attend to answer questions at the event, co-hosted by CARE and Red Deer College. Underwood believes viewers will see the great relationships that developed between the more than 75 volunteer contributors.

“It’s easy to settle in a new country, but it’s hard to integrate,” she said, but Journeys of Hope helped many newcomers make better connections within the community.

The film will also be shown at a local social workers conference, to City of Red Deer workers, and at some local schools and private work places. It can be seen online on YouTube and The Cache Project website.

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