Thoughts from Board Member, Steve Clemens… On NOT Seeing American Sniper Movie
I have chosen not to see Clint Eastwood’s new “blockbuster” film, American Sniper, for several reasons: I don’t wish to add to the sales figures which continue to make it the #1 movie at the box office for 3 weeks running; I rarely spend $6-12 for a first-run movie, waiting until it comes to my local neighborhood theater for $2 senior rate; but, more importantly, what this movie symbolizes to my Iraqi friends.
When I traveled back to Iraq for the first time since going to Baghdad in December of 2002 as part of a Peace Team, the people I met in Najaf, Karbala, and Babil (Babylon) in November of 2012 were happy to greet an unarmed American – and they told us so. Unarmed, coming not to conquer nor correct but rather to connect and communicate face-to-face. Not looking through the scope of a rifle for potential targets but rather mingling with the masses in the souk, at the Shrines to their revered ancestors and leaders, and at the universities and grade schools. Looking there, instead of finding “insurgents” I found inquisitive people eager to engage me as a potential friend and partner.
Yes, I must admit I also encountered some bitterness and disgust at what some had felt was directly linked to the American invasion and the long military “occupation” which followed. Some of my Iraqi friends think many of the corrupt and ineffectual politicians now running their nation were put in place or funded by – or at least took advantage of the chaos created by – the American military intervention. Many of my Iraqi friends, while having no love lost for the departure of Saddam Hussein, see the present conflict arising between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims as being a result of a divide-and-conquer strategy by America and it’s principal ally, Israel.
So a U.S. movie which doesn’t bother to take the time to explain WHY a patriotic Iraqi might become an “insurgent” to fight against a foreign invader trying to put in place a government in his/her own nation – but instead has as its flawed “hero” someone whose autobiography calls all Iraqis “savages” … Well it isn’t hard to connect the dots to see how American Sniper will not help us work for the needed reconciliation between Iraqis and Americans.
Ironically, all the controversy surrounding this movie might serve as a good reminder to Americans that all too often wants to “move on” to the next event-of-the-day (or week or month) that those on the receiving end of the American Empire don’t have the luxury of moving on when infrastructure and relationships remain tattered and broken for most of our Iraqi friends.
Posted by Steve Clemens
You are invited to join us for a premiere event, a screening of 6 short films and discussion with the filmmakers.
Dessert and Coffee reception to follow.
When: Tues. December 2, 2014, 7:00 pm
Where: Macalester College, 1600 Grand Ave, St Paul, 55105 / Ruth Stricker Dayton Campus Center, Lower Level
Iraqi Voices is an ongoing collaborative mentorship program that gives Iraqis in Minnesota support and training to transform their stories into high-quality documentary video shorts. The films are written and directed by Iraqi-American participants and are photographed and edited by Nathan Fisher.
Hosted by the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project in partnership with MacHOPE (Macalester Helping Open Peaceful Exchange).
This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
Event is free; donations welcomed.
More info… join our Facebook Event Page here.
For the past several months, IARP has collaborated with filmmaker Nathan Fisher on Iraqi Voices, a collaborative mentorship program that gives Iraqis in Minnesota support and training to produce documentary videos. The videos tell the Iraqis’ stories of coping with war and dislocation.
We need your help to tell these courageous stories and support all of our work for reconciliation. Please consider scheduling a donation for November 13, Give to the Max Day. Your donation will amplify the voices of Iraqi refugees and help broadcast their messages to Americans.
All donations will be matched up to $2500 by IARP’s Board of Directors and will support our other work for reconciliation: supporting Iraqi women and peacemakers, providing clean water to Iraqi schools, arts and cultural exhibitions, and professional exchanges between Iraqis and Americans.
Give to the Max Day was created in 2009 to launch GiveMN, a collaborative venture led by Minnesota Community Foundation. In just 24 hours, Give to the Max Day raises about $14 million for Minnesota-based nonprofits every year.
All donations on November 13, Give to the Max Day, will be matched up to $2750 by IARP’s Board of Directors. Support IARP on Give to the Max Day and receive the following (all of these rewards are optional):
Donation of $25 or more: Invitation to our VIP reception on December 2nd with Iraqi refugee filmmakers, to be held at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Donation of $50 or more: The above, plus a 12×18 poster of the films, signed by the Iraqi filmmakers.
Donation of $100 or more: All of the above, plus you will receive a DVD of all of the Iraqi films (great for hosting a screening get-together with your friends or colleagues!).
Donation of $250 or more:All of the above, plus your name will be listed in the credits of the films produced by Iraqi refugees, IARP, and filmmaker Nathan Fisher.
New series of Films by IARP and Local Iraqi Refugees to be shown at 9th Annual Twin Cities Arab Film Festival
For the past 6 months, filmmaker Nathan Fisher and IARP have worked with Iraqi refugees and immigrants in Minnesota on a collaborative mentorship program to produce videos telling their stories. The guiding principle has been to allow the Iraqi filmmakers to tell their own stories and to focus on what they want to tell Americans.
A selection of the films will be featured at Mizna’s upcoming 9th Annual Twin Cities Arab Film Festival, to be held from November 6 to 9 at the St. Anthony Main Theater in Minneapolis. For more information about the festival, click here.
IARP will host an official premier of all of the films as a screening, discussion and reception with the filmmakers on December 2 at 7:00 at Macalester College in St. Paul. Watch for more information to come soon.
The filmmaking project with Iraqi refugees and immigrants builds on IARP’s previous work with Iraqis in Minnesota. To view previous books and short films produced by Iraqis, IARP, filmmaker Nathan Fisher, the Veterans Book Project, and The Advocates for Human Rights, click here.
Support for this project has been generously provided by a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board.
See images below of their recent activities in Minneapolis:
*This story was written by Irene Gibson, who interned with IARP in the summer of 2013. The story exemplifies the personal ties and friendships between Americans and Iraqis that IARP supports.
Recently I had the pleasure of visiting Shayma and her beautiful family, refugees from Iraq who recently arrived in Minnesota.
Shayma opened the door to the house even before I could knock. Greeting me with hugs and kisses, she eagerly introduced me to her husband, Mohammed, and oldest daughter, Ayat (16). Shayma proudly showed me around the house, and Doha (8) and Malik (6) showed me their letter books and homework. Malik brought me a small pumpkin, placed it in the fridge, and explained in detail exactly how she was going to cook it later. Eventually Shayma, Mohammad, and the oldest brother Hussein (17) sat with me to drink tea and discuss life in Minnesota.
When I tell people I visited a household of Iraqi refugees, most think of the differences: clothes, food, language. But this family wasn’t foreign to me; the familiar chaos of family life and the feeling of a home were unmistakable. Shayma attempted the impossible task of wrangling her children. Mohammed talked about looking for a job as a mechanic. Hussein worried about learning a new language in school. Ayat watched over the little ones. Ali (8) wanted to impress everyone with new words he had learned. Malik bounced around crazily and loved the extra attention. This family shared the joys of daily life, the ordinary triumphs and trials found in every family.
And yet despite the commonalities between this family and my own, I also felt the difficulties of everyday life. Children struggling in school, parents working to understand supermarkets, and other small aspects of life I often take for granted. Upon my departure Shayma made me promise I would return – largely out of kindness and caring, but also, I sensed, out of a small desperation.
Shayma had mentioned earlier that being a refugee in the US was difficult, and I empathized. Living in a new country can often be lonely and overwhelming, and so I promised to return as soon as I could. We share a great deal already. It will be my pleasure to spend more time with this family and to nurture the ties of friendship and a sense of belonging in this new place they now call home.
For the past several months, filmmaker Nathan Fisher and IARP have worked with Iraqi refugees in Minnesota to help them produce videos telling their stories. The guiding principle has been to allow the Iraqis to tell their own stories and to focus on what they want to tell Americans.
The films will be featured at the upcoming Mizna Arab Film Festival in Minnesota. Watch for more information to come.
Excerpt from story, “Iraqi refugees cope with horrors of war in Minnesota filmmaker’s new project” by Nikki Tundel / MPR News (full story available here):
IARP endorses the following event…. TRACKS IN THE SNOW. Read more here via Star Tribune.
From the Islamic Resource Group:
It’s not often that we get to learn about the journeys of people from diverse backgrounds. It’s not often that we get to walk in the shoes of our neighbors, and reflect about the growth of our community in a meaningful way.
Tracks in the Snow provides a glimpse into the lives of one of the least known and rapidly expanding populations in America and in Minnesota – the Muslim community. Join us to gain a deeper insight into the true lives of Muslims Minnesotans as narrated by themselves.
Most importantly, join us to create a conversation. Let the exhibit inform your perceptions and tell us what you think! Tracks in the Snow is a way for us to come together and redefine the narrative about Minnesota Muslims by beginning an authentic dialogue and continuing the journey.
Carondelet Event and Retreat Center
1890 Randolph Ave, St Paul, MN 55105
The show runs from August 25 to September 22 at the Carondelet Center in St. Paul.
Free to visitors. For hours and more information, click here.
September 18, 7:00 – 8:00 PM
Every year we look forward to the annual Sister Cities Day! Mark your calendar, save the date and bring the family to Sister Cities Day on Sunday, July 20th, at the Nicollet Island Pavilion.
Free ice cream social, youth international performers Songs of Hope, multicultural performances by the Sister Cities and kids activities. All for free as part of the Minneapolis Aquatennial Celebration.
All 10 Sister City Groups will be in attendance, including IARP! Come say hi at our booth.