Refugees share their lives in documentary

Belinda Mendoza

It can be difficult to imagine what it’s like growing up in a country torn apart by war but for many refugees living in the United States that was once their reality.

The chances are that many City College students have brushed shoulders with a refugee while walking around campus and never knew it.

The documentary “Make It Home: A Story of Resettlement” tells the story of some of those refugees as they recount their journey to San Diego.

One of them is former City College men’s cross-country team assistant coach Meb Keflezighi, an Eritrean refugee who became a U.S. Olympic runner and winner of the 2014 Boston Marathon.

The documentary was envisioned by Elizabeth Meehan, the co-director of the World Cultures Program and an English professor. The project came to fruition with the help of Radio, Television and Film Department instructor Bob Sly and students in his advanced video production class.

The documentary took over a year to produce, longer than originally anticipated, with the team investing more time on filming and editing

“My job as a video producer and documentarian sometimes is to promote good things that people are doing … and I encourage my students to promote the good things that are happening in the world as well,” Sly said.

Hani Hussein, one of the City College students appearing in the documentary, believes in the value of its content.

“It is a great opportunity to hear the narratives of people from other countries and hear what they have experienced. It puts things in perspective,” Hussein said.

“People are more receptive when they understand what they (refugees) are going through,” said Walter Lam, an African refugee and the founder of the Alliance for African Assistance, a San Diego-based non-profit organization that helps refugees settle in the United States.

According to Sly, Lam’s insight on the resettlement process “ended up as the thread” for the documentary.

“Make It Home: A Story of Resettlement” premiered on April 7 at City College to an enthusiastic crowd.

“It was very eye-opening and they did a great job sharing the students’ stories,” said Jamie Margmen, who was among the attendees.

Sly plans to enter the documentary in film festivals. For now, it can be viewed on his YouTube channel “Bigsly.”