With special thanks to the featured asylum seekers and refugees Mari, Cheyenne, Junior and Subhi, for having the courage and fortitude to tell your stories before you had barely landed!
This week I had the great honor of accepting the OUTFEST Los Angeles 2019 juried Best Feature Documentary award for the Film UNSETTLED on behalf of filmmaker Tom Shepard, producers Jen Gilomen and Stu Harrison, crew, and all involved to include a cast of refugees and asylum seekers, as well as human rights advocates, organizational representatives and volunteers.
I was able to stand on that very prestigious stage in front of filmmakers and community on behalf of Tom Shepard and all involved with UNSETTLED to thank OUTFEST for the recognition that served to platform subjects which highlight a myriad of issues impacting our global and local LGBQTI communities. I was able to commend the courageous cast for their willingness to tell their stories that reflect the plight of so many, and to convey the message from Tom and his crew dedicating the award to LGBTQI people who are exiled through persecution.
From the violence engendered by criminalization abroad to homelessness at home, Tom skillfully weaved over 400 hours of footage shot over a 5-year period into a piece of cinematic art telling a vast complex story in 88 minutes, while shuffling the audiences at several film festivals through every imaginable emotion, yielding gasps, cheers, laughter, tears, standing ovations and approving applauses.
For me personally this was an experience of a lifetime as the hard and often thankless work of so many years received this recognition.
With that said we have some needs – and I am going to ask:
A) Task Fund:Asylum seekers and refugees often want to give back – to work in the realm of human rights. At African HRC we have created several tasks where talents and services will be put to good use in helping others in similar circumstances. We are acutely aware of the feelings of exploitation expressed by asylum seekers / refugees who have informed us that working for NGO’s/ organization as interns have been onerous when without remuneration. To this end we have created a Task Fund – where we provide fair remuneration to any asylum seeker or refugee who volunteers for African HRC. DONATE.
B) Unsettled Fund: In partnership with the Unsettled Production, we are seeking funds so that together with the subjects and producers of the film, we can continue to attend film festivals and educational Institutions around the country and globally with post screening forums, panels and Q&A. This will amplify the crucial platform that the film has created, bringing more awareness to all the subject matters invoked by the film. DONATE.
C) Operations Fund:As you will note from the film seeking asylum in the United States is onerous and a daunting process. Among all that we do, we are contacted daily by LGBTQI legal representatives seeking expert country conditions reporting and testimony for asylum seekers. As you know asylum seekers generally have no resources. African HRC has no operational funding and all workers, including myself, are unpaid. We have established a fund to pay for the time it takes to produce these reports, attend venues to provide testimony, and related expenses. Beyond time spent this fund will be utilized for operations. We are asking all involved in other organizations who do not do this work to consider small grants or contributions to this critical endeavor. DONATE.
To this end all funds that are generated, other than specific grants, between now and December 31, 2019, will be divided between these funds, with 25% each to Task and Unsettled Funds and 50% to Operations Fund.
Thank you all for your continued support: DONATE.
And please be sure to support the film UNSETTLED when you see it at a venue near you.
By MELANIE NATHAN