Friday: 4:00 pm – Katie’s Cup
Saturday: 1:30 pm – Domenico’s
A Place in the World’ is a feature documentary about a small charter school called “The International Community School’ (ICS) that takes on an issue that plagues many communities: what to do for the refugee and immigrant populations whose children are falling behind in traditional public schools. ICS’ conclusion: placing these kids together with local American children will allow for a trade-off that, if nurtured and encouraged, will benefit both parties greatly. The school is comprised of about half refugee students, half local American kids.
ICS is located in a small suburb outside of Atlanta – a place with its own divisive history of acceptance, integration, and social change. In many ways, ICS acts as a microcosmic laboratory for how we can all get along. The community ICS serves was reported by the New York Times to be “one of the most diverse communities in America” where over 60,000 refugees have been resettled. ICS’ refugee student body accurately reflects the global sociopolitical climate at any given time. If there is strife and violence somewhere in the world, there are most likely children from that place at ICS. Such a concentration of peoples, naturally, brings friction. The parents, coming from worlds apart, hold various ideologies, religions and values that come into conflict with one another. The children, whose identities are still being formed, see something very different. They are stretched between two worlds: one of cultural meshing, and one of traditional belief. Despite their many differences, all the families have something very much in common – they want a better life for their children.
The film takes place over two years and examines a number of themes, such as how we form our identities and how we can learn from those around us to build stronger communities. The film demonstrates that despite all of the enormous challenges and obstacles facing this country, the United States is still a beacon of hope for so many seeking a better future for their children.
A Place in the World’ follows five story lines:
1) A Burmese refugee teaching-assistant at ICS and her family. Having escaped from the military junta in Burma (Myanmar) with their children, husband and wife Htwe and Myo struggled to adjust in this country for many years. With an unwavering drive to make a better life for their children, they have become leaders in their community. Htwe is a teaching assistant at ICS and the school’s only Burmese employee. In an area with an enormous and constantly growing Burmese refugee population, Htwe and Myo are the only ones many of the Burmese refugees can turn to for help in this new country. Htwe and Myo use their past experiences to help newly arrived refugees while trying to raise their Americanized children to respect and appreciate their Burmese heritage.
2) A recently arrived Sudanese refugee father with two sons at ICS. Butros Kebe brought his family to the United States after escaping the brutal civil war in Sudan and a harsh nomadic life in refugee camps in Ethiopia. Now in the US, Butros labors to support his family of eight on little more than minimum wage. He works the night shift at a chicken factory, sometimes not seeing his wife and children for days at a time. Two of his sons, Khamis and Bashir, have their own difficulties. Upon arrival at ICS, Bashir didn’t even understand the concept of school. Both he and his brother Khamis have a difficult time keeping up with their classmates. Soon however, Butros’ sons become better speakers of English than their father, dramatically changing the role Butros sees himself playing in their lives.
3) A young American boy at ICS and his father. Zade and his father Harvey are a pretty typical Southern male duo. As Harvey puts it: they hunt, they fish, and they love NASCAR with a passion. Yet in ICS’ fairly liberal and very diverse atmosphere the two of them could not seem more foreign. Zade fits in perfectly in many of the southern communities outside of ICS, but inside he often feels like an outcast and finds it hard to relate to many of the other kids. Zade seeks to find his place in ICS while Harvey debates whether or not ICS is the right school for his son.
4) A first year teacher at ICS and his struggling refugee student. As a first year teacher at ICS and an immigrant from Britain, Drew Whitelegg works hard to adapt to a new work environment as he tries to teach a loud and rowdy class of some of the school’s more troubled kids. He uses his classroom’s diversity as a tool to help his students learn more about themselves from learning about each other. Mr. Drew provides a glimpse into what it’s like to be a teacher at such a diverse school where the students have a wide array of problems and needs.
Zozan, a young Iraqi girl, is one of Mr. Drew’s 4th grade students. She struggles academically and is one of the more troubled kids in the class. At home, Zozan lives in a traditional Muslim world but each day goes to school as a modern American girl. She often takes out the frustration brought on by living two very different lives in class. Seeing that Zozan needs extra help and attention, Mr. Drew takes it upon himself to mentor her, seeing a potential in her that she doesn’t see in herself, with the hope that she can become the talented and capable young woman he knows she can be.
5) ICS’ new principal. Dr. Laurent Ditmann left a professorship in academe, completely disillusioned by educational institutions, with the hope that at a school like ICS he could make a real difference. A native of France and the son of Jewish refugees and holocaust survivors, Laurent provides a fitting perspective on the importance of a school that brings together children from diverse racial, cultural, and religious backgrounds.