Film series opens with a documentary on life of refugees in U.S.

As West Michigan prepares to welcome hundreds of Afghan refugees into the community in the coming months, the Holland International Relations Commission is highlighting the refugee experience in the U.S. as part of its annual film series.

The commission’s annual Reel Time Film Series kicks off on Nov. 22 with the acclaimed documentary, “This Is Home: A Refugee Story.” The film will be shown at 7 p.m., and admission is free. 

“‘This Is Home: A Refugee Story’ provides an opportunity for the Holland community to connect with the wider world in a moment when families from across the world are joining our community,” says Alissa Wilson, IRC chairperson. “The more we can understand the stories of and challenges faced by refugees and immigrants, the more welcoming and stronger our community can be.” 

After the film, Kristine Van Noord, director of Refugee Adult and Family Programs for Bethany  Christian Services, will discuss local resettlement efforts. 

This year, the film festival is moving to Hope College’s Knickerbocker Theater in downtown Holland thanks to a partnership between the IRC and the college.

Beyond the stats

The documentary offers an intimate portrait of four Syrian refugee families arriving in America and struggling to rebuild their lives in their new home of Baltimore. They attend cultural orientation classes and job training sessions where they must "learn America" — everything from how to take public transportation to negotiating new gender roles.

Peabody award-winning filmmaker Alexandra Shiva has been praised for taking a fresh look at the classic American immigration story and challenging the audience to see past differences to find common ground. 

“This Is Home” goes beyond the statistics, headlines, and political rhetoric to tell deeply personal stories, putting a human face on the global refugee crisis. It premiered at The Sundance Film Festival in 2018, where it won the Audience Award: World Cinema Documentary. The documentary has been shown in dozens of film festivals across the world and has received multiple awards. 

The 2021-22 Reel Time Film Series will feature “Life in a Day” on Jan. 4 and “Mayor” on Jan. 18. Both films will be held at 7 p.m. at the Knickerbocker. Admission is free. 

The goal of the Holland IRC is to build and maintain meaningful relationships between the people of Holland and the wider world through cultural, educational and professional contact. 


Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.