Are we selling a film?


Loch Phillipps

Nasradin and his son Mohammed wait for the school bus.

The process of pushing Utica: The Last Refuge out into the world has knocked my head around. Typically, you make a film and hope some gatekeeper or other, a festival programmer, a broadcaster, a producer’s rep, celebrity, or other, will love your film and help get a snowball of success rolling. You want a ton of people to see it. That’s the main goal. What you don’t want to do is to have to get a bunch of people to watch it yourself.

As we were nearing completion of the film, I felt sheepish about promoting it. I’m 60 now and this isn’t really a career move for me. I didn’t want to come off like I was mostly promoting myself, but that’s what it felt like. Lucky for me my friend Matt Levine came to town and jumped on my reticence. “You know what your problem is? You think you’re selling your little movie. What you’re really trying do to is to change the conversation around refugees in this country.” This might sound self-aggrandizing to you, but it really helped me escape that feeling. I immediately felt less a filmmaker, and more an activist. Truth is, I have a responsibility to everyone who has helped us to make the film, and everyone who feels passionately about the issue, to make as big a difference as we can with it.

Thus far, what I get told by people who have watched it, is that the film is achieving what we hoped it would. They feel the city of Utica in it, the considered kindness the city extends to refugees, and what refugees bring to the community. They understand the urgency of pushing back on the lies repeatedly told about refugees: that they’re dangerous and an economic drain. They understand that it would do us a world of good and enhance our international reputation to embrace refugee resettlement for what it is: a win-win proposition.

I have a team of dedicated people working with me as we continue to work towards insuring that film is both widely seen and that it finds its way into communities of significant refugee resettlement for targeted screenings. Promoting strategies of systemic kindness feels necessary at this difficult time. If you have any thoughts about how we might best do that, if you know any movers and shakers who might partner with us, please let us know. We need more snow to get this ball rolling.



Utica: The Last Refuge documentary
Utica: The Last Refuge — Film Blog

This feature documentary follows the Azeins, a Sudanese refugee family, as their story intersects with the ongoing story of Utica, NY.