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Welcome Strangers 2020

Recommended with Reservations

Distributed by Good Docs
Produced by Garret Savage and Dia Sokol Savage
Directed by Dia Sokol Savage
Streaming, 21 mins

High School - General Adult
Human Rights; Immigration; Prisons

Date Entered: 09/01/2022

Reviewed by Gisèle Tanasse, University of California Berkeley

The short documentary, Welcome Strangers, provides an uplifting portrait of Casa de Paz, a volunteer-run home welcoming recently released asylum seekers near the Aurora ICE Detention Facility in Colorado. The focus of the film is Casa de Paz founder Sarah Jackson, and her roommate and co-volunteer Oliver, a Cameroonian asylum seeker and father, who is awaiting the release of his own wife from detention.

The energy and joy that Sarah, Oliver, and countless other volunteers bring to their overlooked work, which happens in the dark freezing night, is indeed inspiring. The film does a good job of showing the full range of emotions experienced by the recently released, from relief and freedom after long detention, to fear at possibly being returned to detention, as well as the profound emotional toll that separation from family and previous traumas take on asylum seekers.

The intention of this documentary is to raise awareness and support for initiatives welcoming recently-released asylum seekers, and it does this well, humanizing asylum seekers and speaking to what motivates volunteers to get involved (for Sarah, it is a spiritual calling). However, it is difficult to imagine curricular uses for such a brief and high-level snapshot of life at one such home. The film is therefore recommended with reservations for public libraries serving community groups supporting asylum seekers; as well as religious and community organizations and non-profits. Additionally, it could prove a starting off point for some social work programs as well, especially if paired with another more extensive course content, such as Lisa Molomot’s excellent short documentary focused on one asylum seeker, Soledad.

Women in Film Award, Telluride Mountainfilm; Best Short Film, Frozen River Film Festival; Local Jury Award, Palm Springs Shortfest; People's Choice Award Compassionate Service, Compassion Film Festival; Special Mention, Emerging Documentary, March on Washington Film Festival; Honorable Mention, Pittsburgh Shorts Festival

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