Filmmaker Zach Ingrasci discusses his documentary, "Salam Neighbor," on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2016 in Baker Hall. Ingrasci lived among 85,000 Syrian refugees for one month to make the first Syrian refugee documentary of its kind. (Alek Mosholt/B&W Staff)

Film screening explores lives of Syrian refugees

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Filmmaker Zach Ingrasci spoke to students, faculty and community members Thursday at the No Lost Generation club’s screening of “Salam Neighbor,” a documentary that followed Ingrasci and fellow filmmaker Chris Temple as they lived in a Syrian refugee camp.

Students were not the only group in attendance, however, as police officers were stationed in Zoellner Arts Center, where the screening took place. Several years ago, a group of Allentown pro-Assad Syrian-Americans protested a similar university refugee crisis event.

Rebecca Ely, ’17, the secretary of No Lost Generation, said the protest was a little tense and there was worry that a protest could occur again. Police officers attended the event as a precautionary measure.

“Salam Neighbor” is an award-winning documentary and international campaign. Ingrasci and Temple were the first filmmakers to be registered and given a tent inside of a refugee camp. They used their position to tell the stories of refugees living in the camp.

Among the refugees was a young boy, Raouf, who, in the film, drew a “lonely man,” who had lost all of his children. When asked if he knew anyone like the lonely man, Raouf said, “yes, everyone.” 

“Raouf is so powerful because he really represents a generation, a generation that is at so much risk right now,” Ingrasci said.

The filmmakers aimed to connect the world to refugees and raise awareness and support for the Syrian refugee crisis. The “Salam Neighbor” team has brought the documentary to more than 350 festivals, schools, churches and communities.

The screening and discussion with Ingrasci were co-sponsored by different departments, centers, programs and student organizations on campus, including the department of political science, the Humanities Center and Engineers without Borders.

Half of the executive board of No Lost Generation focused on fundraising, and the other half focused on organizing the silent auction. Ely said the club was able to raise $1,200 for the resettlement agency. 

Lehigh’s No Lost Generation club, the second of its kind in the country, is an organization in coordination with the state department that aims to raise awareness about the refugee crisis. The group wants to help refugees access primary education through advocacy.

The organization started meeting this semester. In addition to the “Salam Neighbor” screening, members led an “I stand #withrefugees” photo campaign.

Katie Morris, ’18, the president of the No Lost Generation club, said members plan to seek full recognition for their club through Student Senate in the future. The group also plans to bring additional speakers, such as a U.S. Agency for International Development representative, to campus.

Julia Washburn, ’18, said the United Nations considers the refugee crisis the world’s most pressing humanitarian issue. She said she especially agrees with this sentiment after attending the screening.

“I think that we talk about it a lot in academic settings, but seeing the humanization of the refugees made me want to do more,” Washburn said.

One of the main objectives of the No Lost Generation club and “Salam Neighbor” is to raise awareness and concern for the refugee crisis.

“My main concern is changing peoples’ perception of what it means to be a refugee,” said Jean Kwon, ’17,  the vice president of No Lost Generation. “Getting to know other kinds of people changes your views on the world, even if you didn’t know you had those views.”

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