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Documentaries focus on overcoming hate and giving rise to hope

SARANAC LAKE — Two groundbreaking documentaries about the struggle for survival, dignity, acceptance and the assertion of one’s rights are the focus of a unique collaboration among multiple nonprofit organizations and educational entities in the North Country that themselves are centered on such issues as gender equity, racial and ethnic tolerance, and defense of undocumented migrants.

As added bonuses, the screening of the first movie, “Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America,” will feature an in-person appearance by Moises Serrano, the subject of this powerful film, while the presentation of the second film, “I Am Rohingya: A Genocide in Four Acts,” is currently scheduled to include a live post-screening discussion by the movie’s director, co-director, and/or members of the cast (either in-person or by Skype).

Harrowing Journeys, Powerful Stories

“Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America” tells the story of Moises Serrano, an openly queer and undocumented activist and storyteller. When he was just a baby, his parents risked everything to flee Mexico and make the perilous journey across the desert in search of the American Dream. Growing up in the rural South where he is forbidden to live and love, Moises sees only one option — to fight for justice. “Forbidden” is a feature-length documentary that chronicles Moises’ work as an activist traveling across his home state of North Carolina as a voice for his community, all the while trying to forge a path for his own future.

The Rohingya are an indigenous Muslim minority in Myanmar, formerly Burma. With their citizenship revoked, the Rohingya have contended with state-sponsored attacks by the country’s security forces for decades, the violence fueled by extremist propaganda denying their existence throughout Myanmar’s history and characterizing them as foreign invaders. “I Am Rohingya: A Genocide in Four Acts” traces the journey of 14 refugee youths who take to the stage (in front of a live audience) to re-enact their families’ harrowing experiences in Burma and beyond; before, during, and immediately after the escalation of military violence in their native homeland, Rakhine State; their unforgiving escape by foot and by boat to makeshift camps in Bangladesh; and their eventual resettlement in Ontario, Canada.

“The military’s murderous purge of hundreds of Rohingya villages in northern Rakhine State in early 2017 killed at least 10,000 Rohingya women, men and children, according to an estimate from the UN Fact-Finding Mission, and forced more than 740,000 to flee across the border into Bangladesh,” stated an August 2019 Amnesty International report. “In Bangladesh, more than 910,000 Rohingya, including people who fled previous waves of violence, live in refugee camps, where they are often denied basic human rights.”

“Forbidden: Undocumented and Queer in Rural America” will be shown Monday, Sept. 30, at 7 p.m. at Pendragon Theatre. Moises Serrano will be on hand at both screenings to introduce the film and participate in a Q&A session with the audience afterwards.

“I Am Rohingya: A Genocide in Four Acts” will be shown Sunday, Oct. 20, at 4 p.m. at Pendragon Theatre. The film’s director, Yusuf Zine, along with his co-director, Kevin Young, and possibly one or more cast members, are scheduled to appear live either in-person or by Skype for a Q&A session with the audience following the screening.

Admission to the two Adirondack Voters for Change-initiated screenings at Pendragon, 15 Brandy Brook Ave., open to all, is by a suggested donation of $10 per person, with students free. Any proceeds from these two screenings after expenses are covered will be donated to one or more charities supporting Rohingya refugees.

To learn more about the entire series, email Adirondack Voters for Change at vfc2014ny@gmail.com or contact the group’s President, Jim Abendroth, at 518-891-0805 or 518-637-4335.