International Rescue Committee (IRC)

“The Paradise That Wasn’t” – A Film Featuring Refugee Youth in Baltimore

As Evodie Ngoy made her film debut this past June to over two hundred people in the audience at the Creative Alliance, not a peep was heard among them.  Those fortunate to be in the audience that evening learned from the perspectives of refugee youth in Baltimore as Evodie took them on a journey into 'The Paradise That Wasn't'.  This was Evodie’s second film that was produced through the Wide Angle Youth Media  video mentor project.

Evodie came to Baltimore eight years ago as a Congolese refugee at the age of seven. Her heart was full of hope and ready to start her life free from fear. Evodie was most excited to have the privilege of attending school. In Congo, she had once been asked to leave the classroom abruptly because of her family’s inability to pay the school fees. However, Evodie faced great difficulty in her elementary school in Baltimore as she faced ridicule by peers who didn’t understand her circumstances and her reason for coming to Baltimore. 

Evodie’s film begins by illustrating why refugees are forced to flee their homes, and then focuses her lens to highlight the challenges refugee youth face in the school environment upon arriving in Baltimore.  By leveraging her film making talents with her family’s love and support, Evodie shows how she bravely surmounted the challenge of being teased by classmates because they viewed her as different. The lives of other refugee youth with similar stories are also highlighted throughout the film.

The mood in the audience at the beginning of the screening was one of sorrow and even pity for the refugee youth, some very young, who are forced to deal with bullying. However, the film makes a dramatic shift towards the end, as refugee youth start speaking out about their experiences and begin to engage their American born peers. By the end of the film, the refugee youth come to understand that bullying affects even their U.S. counterparts, and that the desire to fit-in and belong to the larger community is something all youth share.  The final scenes of the film feature youth describing their love for their new community and proclaiming their desire to work together to make Baltimore a more welcoming city.

This film is a powerful tool for those interested in fostering a meaningful discussion on the impact of bullying on youth, or raising awareness about refugee experiences.  If you are interested in screening the film, please contact Holly Leon-Lierman at the IRC via email or + 1 443 897 0080.