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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Film Festival Highlights Rich Cultures Of New Americans' Home Countries

Gulf Film
"Zarafa" is one of the films being screened during the Global Roots Festival, a film festival taking place in Winooski that represents new Vermonters' home countries in a different way, through fictional film.

This month, several films will be screened in Winooski at the Global Roots Festival, which celebrates and represents new Vermonters’ home countries in a different way than often portrayed in the media.

Orly Yadin, executive director of the Vermont International Film Foundation, joined VPR to talk about the film festival.

Yadin says it was very important to the foundation to find films that represented the ethnic and cultural diversity in the Winooski and Burlington area. “It's another aspect of our mission statement,” she says, “which is to enrich the community through film … We thought, what better way to serve the community through film than by finding films from the countries of origins of New Americans in Vermont to show them?”

Yadin says that many Vermonters may not know much about the New Americans living among us. “We usually tend to see them through the media as victims, as victims of civil war and of other atrocities, but actually all these different peoples have very rich cultures,” she explains. To help really understand the cultures, the festival chose to only show fiction films, not documentaries. “Films that were actually made in these countries and can be in many, many styles,” she says.

Credit Global Roots Film Festival
The Global Roots Festival will be screening films during the month of March at the O'Brien Community Center and Community College of Vermont's Winooski campus.

Yadin thinks that film, especially fiction film, can convey the richness of culture better than any other medium. One of the films, Zarafa, is animated, one of the first of its kind in the festival. “It’s respectful of nomadic life, it’s respectful of Islam, and it’s slightly anti-European-colonial. But through the animation, which is absolutely charming … It’s actually a film for the whole family,” Yadin says.

Yadin says that although the foundation reaches out to the New American community to attend the free festival, they haven’t seen the turnout they’d like. "Our wish is that the Global Roots Film Festival will foster a greater understanding and tolerance of different peoples and the understanding that even though some of these people may have come here as refugees, there are so many other aspects to their lives," she says.

The films will be on screen during the month of March at the O'Brien Community Center and Community College of Vermont's Winooski campus. Learn more about the free festival here.  

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
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