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Stranger at the Gate 2022

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Good Docs
Produced by Conall Jones, Joshua Seftel, and Suzanne Hillinger
Directed by Joshua Seftel
Streaming, 30 mins

College - General Adult
Interpersonal Relations; Military; Terrorism

Date Entered: 02/14/2024

Reviewed by Russell A. Hall, Reference and Instruction Librarian, Penn State Erie

Stranger at the Gate is a documentary that tells the story of Richard “Mac” McKinney, U.S. Marine Corps veteran with more than two decades service, including deployment in the war in Afghanistan. McKinney, like many military members, found it challenging to return to civilian life. Particularly difficult for him was discovering that there were Muslims living in his hometown of Muncie, Indiana. To continue his personal war, McKinney devised a plan to bomb the local Islamic Center. But in planning his attack, he found himself greeted by the members and to his tremendous surprise he was not only welcomed but embraced. He found support and community where he had expected the enemy. From the compassion of the people of the Islamic Center, McKinney was able to put aside his hatred and thus potential tragedy was avoided.

It is imperative to note that this is not simply a feel-good story. The film goes beyond the redemption of Richard McKinney and the wholesomeness with which he was welcomed by the people at the Islamic Center of Muncie. Stranger at the Gate shows the toll of the dehumanization of other people, both for individuals and society. McKinney came home and found what he was taught was the enemy right in his hometown. To McKinney these Muslim residents of Muncie, these fellow Americans, could be nothing other than the enemy, the “other,” due to wartime indoctrination.

Stranger at the Gate is highly recommended for courses that look at the psychological aspects of the military and soldiers, as well as for courses that investigate the roots of “home-grown” terrorism. As the film is short, it could be used either as homework or shown in class with ample time for discussion afterwards.

Nominee, Best Documentary Short Film, Academy Award®; Special Jury Mention for Best Documentary Short, Tribeca Film Festival; Grand Jury Prize, Indy Shorts International Film Festival; Social Impact Award, HollyShorts; Audience Award for Best Documentary Short, WoodsHole Film Festival; Best Short Documentary, Walla Walla Movie Crush; Best Editing, Breck Film Festival; Audience Award, Virginia Film Festival

Published and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Anyone can use these reviews, so long as they comply with the terms of the license.