Self-directed refugee stories from the new American West


Media reports are rife with accounts about and on behalf of refugees, but there are few opportunities for self-representation. Launching in Montana, a state dotted with hotbeds of alt-right nationalism, the New Neighbors Project will initiate an unfiltered dialogue to promote mutual understanding at the intersection of different cultures.

Through a series of documentaries, music releases and live streaming performances, this citizen media initiative will infuse the observations of the state's new Congolese, Syrian, Iraqi and Eritrean residents into community discourse. The Missoula-based New Neighbors Project will help recent refugee arrivals and long-time Montanans to face the new and explore the unfamiliar—together.

Our approach will be to apply the poetic structure of renga to mediamaking, which will enable a community-authored narrative.

A renga consists of several stanzas, each composed by a different poet, each seeking to find his/her own voice within a text that is jointly created and jointly owned.

The New Neighbors Project will facilitate the creation of a multimedia-renga through workshops that give refugees the opportunity to learn media production skills and employ Montana artists as they self-direct their first-person stories (stanzas). These stanzas will be uploaded to our website for serial viewing and listening, then synthesized into a larger community-led documentary that includes the voices of Montana residents – new and old.

In sharing these productions beyond the state, we hope to encourage similar citizen media projects elsewhere and seed national discourse that reflects the color of America's multicultural identity. Our first visual rengas will be posted this spring. Stay tuned for more information

All proceeds generated from New Neighbors content go back to the refugee families.

Films premiering February 2018


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