As you and I know, Montana is a land as rich in cultural resources as it is in natural ones. A powerful tapestry of First Nations peoples share space with Hmong people; Latino migrant workers and family lines of former European ones traverse the same farmers’ markets, while students from around the world mesh between. The result is a heady blend of ideas and traditions culturing in a state open enough for it all to breathe.
Now, refugee families from the Middle East and Africa infuse their own cultural contributions to our distinctive salad bowl as they pursue honest chances at life.
Yet, somehow, Montana’s diverse cultural image is not evoked alongside the panoramas Americans conjure as they dream of Big Sky. Over the last two years the media (liberal, conservative and everywhere in between) has disproportionately painted us as the state of White Nationalism.
The New Neighbors Project not only fights for the reputation of our great state, but for its ability to further diversify through the promotion of inclusive dialogue.
With your support, we’ve provided some of Montana’s newest community members with cameras and a media education to facilitate self-representative, cross-cultural engagement throughout the state. The effects of this work extend beyond state lines as the larger film that we are producing about the filmmakers (along with their short documentaries) tours the country in a national screening initiative. Our refugee directors will be there every step of the way, speaking live to rapt American audiences about the messages of their films, representing Montana proudly.
None of this would be possible without the ongoing support of the Missoula community. You touched us again with your engagement in our First Friday event at the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center in which we screened early cuts of work emerging from The New Neighbors Project ecosystem.
We began laying the foundation for this project back in October 2016. Our workshop launched in March of this year. And now, as of July, I am so proud to report that seven men, women and children have successfully graduated the program and are seeing the truly extraordinary films they’ve boldly directed into the editing phase.
We anticipate screenings hitting theaters locally and nationally late fall. We’ll keep you all posted every step of the way--the newsletter written monthly and posts on our Facebook and Instagram pages updated regularly. You are our neighbors after all, and we’ve felt your goodwill throughout. We look forward to returning the favor with awesome community events and national engagement that makes Missoula proud. We stand on your backs.