The other day, Unfair Park chatted with filmmaker Bentley Brown about his film Faisal Goes West, the tale of a Sudanese family moving to America and settling in Dallas' Vickery Meadow neighborhood. Brown mentioned his friend who convinced him to film in Dallas (and acted as script supervisor) started Refugee Writers, a project aimed at giving these people a platform -- any possible platform -- on which to tell their stories. We chatted with that friend, Justin Banta, to hear more about the stories he tells and why he tells them, or, as he puts it, why he "facilitates" telling them.
Photo by Danny Fulgencio Vickery Meadow
From November through February, Banta opened his home to a group of Sudanese refugees who felt that the conflict which forced them away from their home was not being thoroughly covered or thoroughly understood in America. At each meeting, the refugees would video-chat with their relatives who were still living in conflict zones and ask them for detailed reports of what was going on -- militia attacks, deaths, bombings, food shortages, and any other ongoing atrocities. While those in Banta's apartment ate scones and sipped coffee throughout the afternoon, their far-away relatives lived under vastly different circumstances of continued suffering and fear.
"It was really difficult," Banta told Unfair Park. "I think there was a time around December, January where I needed to take a break. ... It got pretty emotional and surreal sometimes." His weekly dispatches from those Saturday meet-up sessions are posted in a section devoted to the conflict on the Refugee Writers website.