Reflections / by Gabe Sweeney

Hello Neighbors - from Missoula and beyond,

 

I hope winter is finding you well. As this year nears its end, the first iteration of our project is nearing completion. This means that both the refugee-directed short films and the forty-minute film which weaves their stories together are almost done (yay!). While these films may nearly be finished, there is a much greater story to be shared. It cannot be summarized by a master narrative, regardless of author, but can only be experienced through authentic and sustaining relationships: by being a true neighbor. We look forward to seeing you at the films’ premieres, screenings and film festivals in Missoula and across Montana, the greater United States and world at large.

 

These specific films are only one aspect of New Neighbors’ approach; we have been very busy growing with our directors, following and supporting them in all the directions they feel compelled to go. Please take the time to check out the growing library of fantastic music from Joel Makeci (https://joelmakeci.com). His first music video is nearing completion. We are also very excited to announce the creation of a film co-op, African Refugees Telling Stories (ARTS), which is the vision of two talented New Neighbors directors, Joel Kambale and Justine Binwa. ARTS will build upon the New Neighbors Project and continue to bring storytelling from some of Montana’s newest residents to the public discourse.

In these trying times, some are continuing to attack and propagate false narratives about people trying to find safety in our country. To confront these tactics of division, daily affirmations of community connection and taking the time to hear one another directly will keep Missoula strong. We know Missoula is up to the challenge. Your support of the New Neighbors project from the beginning (just over a year ago!) says a lot in itself. We got your back, too.

So:  to the refugee-directors, we must give multitudes of our thanks and support for their courage and hard work in sharing their stories with us. It is integral to the future of the Missoula community and beyond, of which you are vital members. We must also continue to engage through media and public discourse to ensure that the shape of our communities and the public discourse therewithin reflect the sum of all of our experiences and ideas, not just the select few powerful entities who traditionally shape these discussions and ideas. Citizen media and self-representation are crucial for democracy.

 

Warm Regards,

 

Gabe Sweeney

Director, New Neighbors Project