We just started working on a new full length doc that we’re jazzed about. Utica, in case you don’t know, is a town full of refugees and there is a solid argument to be made that their presence is helping the faltering town back to its feet. Adam and I both went to school at nearby Hamilton College, as did our producer on the project, Dave Chanatry. Adam grew up in Clinton NY and, with his parents, generated the idea for the film. Dave is also local and has done a few NPR stories on the subject. He has long wanted to go deeper himself, and so we’re on our way.
Thus far we are getting tremendous access from the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees. From what we’ve seen, they do an excellent job of meeting refugees at the airport, guiding them through their early days in the US, getting them a place to live, helping with language problems, teaching English, and assisting with job placement. Some of the details they cover surprised us. They know what it takes to help refugees move from a bad situation to one in which their families prosper and they contribute to the community at large.
As we anticipated, the first few shoots have revealed that times are not easy for organizations dedicated to refugee placement. Trump’s various executive orders, whether they pass or not. wreak havoc on budgeting and consequently cause staff upheaval. MVRCR has a donation drive going right now with a matching grant doubling every dollar given. If you’re up for providing a little help, check it out: https://www.mvrcr.org/
The stories we’re starting to gather, both with refugees and MVRCR staffers, many former refugees themselves, make us feel like we have a great project on our hands. Macro-wise, a study done by Hamilton economics professor Paul Hagstrom really cemented our interest. As a side story we will trail he and his crew as they collaborate with MVRCR to conduct a follow-up study this summer. Are refugees a boon to Utica? We expect to find out.