8.3/10
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32 user 35 critic

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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Documentary

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Official Sites:

Hamzeh Mystique Films

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13 November 2003 (USA)  »

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1.66 : 1
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User Reviews

 
An illuminating story, beautifully told.
2 April 2004 | by See all my reviews

This is the true story of what happens to the soul of a small town in Maine when a group of Somali refugees arrives. The town divides. Many residents embrace the refugees, offering a warm welcome and compassion. Others censure them, and a white supremacist group insists there is no place for blacks.

Then the mayor weighs in with a letter that reverberates around the world, bringing a harsh spotlight to a small town. The aftermath of that letter shakes the town to its foundations. Soon the story builds to a riveting climax.

What makes the film so powerful is its narrative structure and the purity of the voices. Here is a documentary with the soul of a dramatic novel. The story is told entirely in the voices of the residents. No narrator intrudes. No viewpoint is superimposed. Each person portrayed in the film is honored by the opportunity to share his or her deepest feelings, uncensored by any editor or script. Even the white supremacists are revealed in their humanity, not through stereotypes. Somali families emerge as exquisitely complex human beings.

I loved the movie most of all for its humanity. Yes, it's a compelling story. The way it unfolds is riveting. But the touching depth and "aftertaste" of the tale lies in the echoes of those pure voices. Each one of them is human. Each one of them is us.

Marjory Bancroft


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