SALEM — In Ethiopia, where Yonas Badi grew up, people would go to a neighbor to “borrow fire” when they didn’t have the money for a lighter to rekindle a cooking fire. Fire was life and fire was shared.
When Badi came to the United States, he had to get his bearings. It wasn’t, he told fellow immigrants, like the movies. No matter where you are, there will always be challenges. But the fire, as a metaphor, still works in America. “I believe we have the fire in us,” he says.
On Wednesday, March 24, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., Badi is one of several who will take part in a Community Conversation about the many ways immigrants have brought their energies and talents to the United States. Sponsored by The House of the Seven Gables, the New Immigrant and Refugee Visions program introduces short documentary films made by immigrants about fellow immigrants. The filmmakers and the subjects of the films will join those in attendance for a conversation. This event is free of charge though donations are gratefully accepted.
The New Immigrant and Refugee Visions filmmaking program that The Gables is hosting is part of the overall mission of the Community Supported Film organization based in the Boston area. Founder Michael Sheridan started the documentary film wing of Oxfam while teaching filmmaking at Northeastern. In Afghanistan he conducted an intensive six-week filmmaking bootcamp and trained 10 Afghans to make documentaries in order to tell their stories. Through Community Supported Film, he continues to provide the resources for people to share points of view that describe in fascinating, heartfelt detail the unique points of view new Americans bring to our national conversation.
Films to be shown on March 24 are “Borrowing Fire” by filmmaker Kebrewosen Densamo, also of Ethiopia, and “Campaign for a New American” by filmmaker Qin Li. In “Borrowing Fire,” Yonas Badi reaches out to his southern community through his businesses. He bought a struggling gas station that became the site of Bible study activity to help those in need including addicts. Badi wears a suit and an unfaltering smile. He also opened a coffee shop where he distributes “Word of the Day” messages that his customers seem to sincerely appreciate. He also began a ministry and church.
In “Campaign for a New American,” Dimple Rana, first generation Indian, ran for the counselor-at-large seat in Revere in 2017. Qin Li’s film focuses on the campaign aimed at supporting “everyday people.” “The diversity of this city doesn’t show in the makeup of the City Council,” Rana tells her supporters.
To register for this event, use this link.
A second Community Conversation focused on documentary filmmakers is scheduled for September 22.