Film premiere: Area Somali immigrants share family separation stories

| Julie Poquette

A new film to premiere Saturday, Nov. 16, in Barron shares the stories of Somali refugees who have settled in Barron County and how U.S. immigration policies have directly impacted their families.

The premiere of "Somali Stories of Family Separation in Barron, Wisconsin,” which is free and open to the public, will start at 2:30 p.m. at the Barron Area Community Center, 800 Memorial Drive in Barron. The event is co-sponsored by the Immigrant Advocates of Barron County and the UW-Eau Claire Office of Multicultural Affairs.

“This documentary-style film challenges viewers to connect the evolving federal immigration policies with some of the real community members living in our area,” said Dang Yang, Office of Multicultural Affairs director.

A Q&A discussion will follow the film screening, and attendees will be able to meet some of the families highlighted in the film who will be at the event.

“The reason people should see this film is that these families, valuable contributors to our communities, are in pain, with children growing up in dangerous places thousands of miles from their parents, separated for years and years because of immigration policies and procedures that cause them this suffering,” said Joel Friederich, associate professor of English at UW-Eau Claire – Barron County.

Friederich initially wrote the immigrants’ stories, which were published last May in UW-Eau Claire – Barron County’s literary journal, Red Cedar.

In advance of writing the Somali families’ separation stories, Joel Friederich and his wife, Lee, then a lecturer of English at UW-Eau Claire – Barron County,  joined the Immigrant Advocates of Barron County. Soon IABC’s organizer, Nancy Pike, welcomed them to attend meetings of her Saturday U.S. citizenship class for Somali community members at the Barron Public Library.

“At those Saturday morning meetings and elsewhere, I started talking to immigrants and was able to sit down with an interpreter and just start asking a lot of questions to try to drill down into their stories so they could describe scenes, images and details to get at the emotional heart of what they were experiencing,” Joel Friederich said.

After the stories were published, IABC members expressed interest in using the stories as the basis for the “Somali Stories” film project. Lee Friederich contacted Yang in UW-Eau Claire’s Office of Multicultural Affairs, along with OMA student intern Gary Garvin, for help getting started on the film.

Garvin, a UW-Eau Claire senior marketing major from Black River Falls, was the cinematographer on the project, shooting all video of the Somali storytellers in the film. Lee and Joel Friederich served as directors, and Rob Mattison in UW-Eau Claire Learning and Technology Services edited the film. English voiceover was provided by several Barron Somali community leaders: Isaak Mohamed, a liaison for the Barron School District and community activist; Mohamud Farah, an interpreter for Mayo Clinic Health System and a UW-Eau Claire – Barron County graduate; and Nasra Xashi, a refugee services coordinator for Work Force Resource.

For more information about the film "Somali Stories of Family Separation in Barron, Wisconsin,” contact Joel Friederich, associate professor of English at UW-Eau Claire – Barron County, at 715-788-6255 or friedera@uwec.edu.

Top photo caption: Fadumo Hassan, owner of Bushra Fashion Shop in Barron, is among the Somali immigrants in her community featured in a new film that shares their stories of family separation due to evolving U.S. immigration policy.