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Film Explores Experiences Of Somali Immigrants In Western Wisconsin

Documentary Will Be Shown In Barron For First Time Saturday

movie theater
SimonQ錫濛譙 (CC BY-NC-ND)

The immigration experiences of four Somali refugees living in Wisconsin are part of a new documentary that premieres this Saturday.

Somali Stories of Family Separation in Barron, Wisconsin” tells the stories of the impact federal immigration policy has had on Somali immigrants living in western Wisconsin.

The third largest number of immigrants in Wisconsin from 2002-16 came from Somalia. Many of those refugees have settled in the small northwestern Wisconsin community of Barron.

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The documentary is the result of a new community group, Immigrant Advocates of Barron County that formed last fall.

“This group really started focusing on the issue of family separation,” said Joel Friederich, a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire-Barron County English lecturer and the film‘s codirector. “How many of the families, the parents, were separated from their children for at least five years, some of them as long as 10 years? This was the occupying issue in their lives, and they wanted to tell these stories.”

Friederich teaches storytelling and was able to interview Somali immigrants over the course of several months and learn some very personal and emotional stories.

“They are extremely personal,” he said. “Every single one of these is the kind of story that every one of us would wind up with PTSD because of. We would be shaken to our core because of what happened.”

The film talks about their experiences in the immigration process and their adapting to Wisconsin, he said.

“Over the last several years as I’ve become more aware of this community, the only thing that I’ve seen is the entire Somali population showing up to help out during weather disasters, raising money to support people who are out of the house, sponsoring soccer tournaments and running for office. The level of community engagement is just remarkable,” Friederich said.

The screening is at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Barron Area Community Center. After the film a discussion will be held with the four Somali immigrants featured in the documentary and an immigration attorney from Minneapolis.

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