Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers

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In October we spent 2 weeks traveling through the Southeastern US, screening “Dalya’s Other Country” for audiences and doing Q&A’s. Our trip was part of the Southern Circuit Tour, an ingenious idea brought to life by South Arts, an arts organization in Atlanta. The program is to bring filmmakers to rural and small towns throughout the south and to interact directly with audiences. For us, the idea of engaging people in red states and showing them a film about a young Syrian Muslim girl who moved from Aleppo to LA, seemed like fertile territory for a rich and engaging conversation. 

We traveled to small towns in North Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Georgia. In Somerset, Kentucky we screened the film at “The Center for Rural Development” and there we met two Egyptian women who live close by. In Barbourville, Kentucky Julia visited Union College and went out with the on-campus Christian group to the “Ugly Mugg” coffee shop and did a screening afterwards.  The best moment of the day in Barbourville was meeting the 11-year old girl who came with her mom and grandma to see the film.  She loved it and asked for a copy to share with her friends. Mustafa visited North Carolina State University where he was surprised to meet several attendees who were of Lebanese descent who have been there for decades.

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We both noticed that the towns that were more rural brought out small groups of outsiders who were looking for understanding or perhaps a way to connect. At Jacksonville State University in Alabama, Mustafa met students from everywhere from Latvia to Nepal to Venezuela to Uzbekistan, and they were all very excited to see a story that resembled their own struggles as outsiders. In Troy, Alabama Julia screened the film at Troy University, a large public school with a student body of about 10,000 students. A small but engaged group of students watched the film and a group of international stay for the Q&A – some Saudis, one or two Nigerians, a Nepalese and a Korean. They wanted to know how Dalya feels now: is she still afraid now that Trump is president? What is life like for her now in Los Angeles? 

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The Q&A in all of these places centers around questions about what it is like to be Muslim in this country right now and small details about what it means to be Muslim. This affirmed for both of us that the more people meet and interact directly, the less misunderstandings there will be. Thank you South Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts for hosting us on this trip, it was eye-opening.

Julia Meltzer