Going to summer camp is a rite of passage for many American kids, an experience they are likely to look fondly upon years later, as adults. But “communing with nature” is not something that many children in war-torn countries like Syria and Iraq have on their minds. Recently, though, a lucky few have been invited to Camp Pathfinder in Algonquin Park, Ontario, where boys between the ages of seven and sixteen are immersed in character-building activities (e.g., setting up camp, cooking over an open fire, traversing wilderness areas) outside the supervision of their parents. New Homeland, the latest film directed by two-time Academy Award-winner Barbara Kopple, focuses on one such group: the children of Syrian and Iraqi immigrants who have found a new home in Canada (where local sponsors have put up their own money to support them). Five boys in particular — Mohammad Darewish from Aleppo, brothers Mohammad and Kasem Zin from Amuda, and brothers Hameed and Omer Majeed from Baghdad — are the subjects of this captivating documentary, which puts a human face on the current refugee crisis and shows the lengths to which camp director Mike Sladden and other Pathfinder leaders will go in order to make these kids’ first foray into the great outdoors as welcoming and enriching as possible. Scenes of the precocious youngsters camping, canoeing, hiking, and swimming are sure to bring a smile of recognition to any viewer who has ever suffered a bad case of tick bites or poison ivy rashes. However, the most affecting moments in New Homeland come near the end, when the boys are reunited with their understandably apprehensive parents and given the chance to show off their newly acquired skills as summer campers. Buoyant and emotionally uplifting, but as deep and wide as the lake that our adolescent heroes cross in their metaphorical journey toward adulthood, Kopple’s career-topping film promises laughter and tears in equal amounts.
Written by David Scott Diffrient
Saturday, April 13
Lory Student Center Theatre
The short film IAN will open this screening.
Film subject Mike Sladden will be in attendance
for a post-screening Q&A moderated by Niama Al-Nima.