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‘Utica: The Last Refuge’: A stunning commentary

Last Wednesday, Saint Mary’s College hosted a showing of the documentary “Utica: The Last Refuge.” The film showcased the many aspects of what it means to come to America, including the struggles and the hardships migrants face. The documentary looks back on the experiences of what it was like to be an immigrant three generations prior to now.

The film opens with an introduction of the Azein family who hope to resettle in Utica, New York after leaving Sudan. From the beginning, the viewers learn of the struggles of what it is like to “become American” as the family arrives to Syracuse International Airport.

The documentary not only shows the kindness and compassion of those who are willing to provide for refugees, but also demonstrates the family’s struggle with the overwhelming decision of whether they should distance themselves from their culture or assimilate to their new society. 

The film clearly visualizes the sociological cycle of immigrants and how it varies each generation. It was evident that the five Azein children would be raised as Americans.

It is not solely the children who begin the process of integration. Mohammed Azein began school in 2019 while also working to support his family. His journey of finding work and enrolling in school was done with the help of the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees (MVRCR). 

The documentary highlights the struggles that the MVRCR faced as policy changes occurred at the state and national level in the United States. Despite, the restricted number of refugees allowed into the country, ‘Utica: The Last Refuge’ pushes back and argues for the rights of immigrants.

In the final scenes of “Utica: The Last Refuge” the audience witnesses the emotional presentation of citizenship certificates. This documentary calls viewers to action. The town of Utica is also a major player in this film. Their economic structure somewhat relies on refugees. Scenes of protests shortly after the 2016 election demonstrate the power of advocacy as well as the role politics plays within topics of immigration in small towns and cities across the country.

Title: “Utica: The Last Refuge”

Director: Loch Phillipps

Shamrocks: 5 out of 5

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