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The Letter: An American Town and the 'Somali Invasion' (2003)

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In the wake of the 9/11 tragedy a firestorm erupts when 1,100 Somali refugees relocate to predominately white Lewiston, Maine.

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In the wake of the 9/11 tragedy a firestorm erupts when Mayor Larry Raymond of Lewiston, Maine sends a letter to 1,100 newly arrived Somali refugees advising that the city's resources are strained to the limit and asking that other Somalis not to move to the city. Interpreted as racism by some and a rallying cry by white supremacist groups across the United States, THE LETTER documents the crossfire of emotions and events, culminating in a "hate" rally convened by The World Church of the Creator and a counter "peace" rally involving 4,000 Lewiston residents supporting ethnic and cultural diversity. Written by Marc Sandler

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nazi | invasion | See All (2) »

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13 November 2003 (USA)  »

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1.66 : 1
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MARVELOUS
30 June 2004 | by (San Francisco, CA) – See all my reviews

As a child, I grew up hearing stories from my father and grandparents about the hatred and vitriol they experienced as Italian immigrants during World War II, all because of Mussolini. My grandmother was pushed off sidewalks, their windows were broken and property vandalized. Some of us have learned little since that time. Ziad Hamzeh has examines the horrible prejudice still suffered by foreign immigrants, in this case, Somalians, Muslims, who were dumped with almost no aid, services or language training on the town of Lewiston, Maine when the United States left Mogadishu after failing to arrest its warlord, Mohammed Aidid. It is a remarkable film, a testimony to the courage and vision of one Muslin-American, Ziad Hamzeh, who has a long and distinguished career as a theatrical director in Europe and the U.S. Once again, we see the Politics of Disaster in full force: a hasty, hackneyed attempt, ill-planned and disastrously executed, like the incursion into Mogadishu (portrayed in Black Hawk Down) that led to tremendous loss of life, ridicule of American policy, and people thousands of miles away paying a huge price for the folly of a few. Ziad Hamzeh carefully constructs his story to make us feel the extraordinary sense of alienation and pain suffered by the Somali's, the fears and mounting hatred of their hosts and neighbors. It is a study in cultural contrasts, the dark Somali's in their colorful garb, the palest of Main-ites in their blandest of adornments trying to navigate through the small town. In the Era of the Documentary, when audiences are rejecting the mindless, derivative fare of Hollywood in favor of stories about real people living out real drama, The Letter is a true revelation about who we are and what our world has become. Take a pass on The Day After Tomorrow and drop in on a day like today: The Letter should not be missed by anyone who cares about their world or cares about good film making. Bravo, Mr. Hamzeh.


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