The Letter: An American Town and the Somali Invasion

DVD Released (Y/M/D): 2005-09-27

Genre: Documentary

Director: Ziad H. Hamzeh


MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Synopsis: THE LETTER: AN AMERICAN TOWN AND THE SOMALI "INVASION" Hamzeh Mystique Films/Harron Entertainment's critically acclaimed feature-length documentary The Letter: An American Town and the "Somali Invasion" opens in January in two New York locations. The film, distributed by Arab Films Distribution, wil have a week-long run February 9-15 at the Pioneer Theater in New York City. Premiering at AFI FEST 2003, The Letter was written and directed by Ziad H. Hamzeh (Shadow Glories), and produced by Hamzeh, Bert Brown and Marc Sandler. The film chronicles the turmoil economically struggling and overwhelmingly white Lewiston, Maine faced when 1,100 former Somali refugees relocated there en-masse in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy - referred to at the time as the "Somali invasion" by the international news media. Passions were enflamed when Lewiston's then mayor, Larry Raymond, wrote an open letter to the Somali community asking them to tell friends and family not to move into the city. The ensuing controversy pitted anti-immigration white supremacist groups against local community activists supporting the Somalis, culminating in simultaneous competing rallies that necessitated the largest police action in Maine's history to ensure the safety of the city's residents. The film has had a strong showing on the festival circuit and received many positive reviews and endorsements from such organizations as It has deeply moves audiences and, as a result, developed a following through word-of-mouth. The Letter has been called a powerful, well crafted documentary that not only highlights the timely subject of immigration and racism but is thrilling to watch. "It is one of the few documentaries that deals with the reality many Arab-Americans suddenly faced in the Post 9/11 world," says John Sinno of Arab Film Distribution. "The Muslim and Arab-American communities live in fear of the backlash that could take place if there is another large scale terror attack on U.S. soil. The Letter reveals in stark terms the racial underpinnings driving some aspects of the 'War on Terror'. U.S. audiences need to see this film... While focusing on Somali immigrants, this film also represents the struggle for acceptance newly arrived immigrants have faced throughout this country's history. The Letter shows us the best and worst of America with a hopeful yet sobering ending." In addition to its AFI FEST 2003 debut, The Letter won the International Spirit Award for Best Documentary at the 2004 Boston International Film Festival, was nominated for Best Documentary at the 2004 Pan-African Film Festival, and was selected to open the 2004 Amnesty International Film Festival in Pittsburgh. The film is scheduled to screen in theaters around the country in upcoming months. "...A thoughtful, historically grounded, and utterly absorbing look at a quintessential American experience." --Hazel-Dawn Dumpert, LA Weekly "...A timely, thoughtful, and riveting chronicle... Ziad Hamzeh juggles an impressive number of subjects, including anti-Muslim sentiment, the neo-Nazi movement, institutionalized prejudice, and the nation's immigrant heritage... Hamzeh keeps the ideas flying and the story building... As an affecting work of compassionate craftsmanship, THE LETTER delivers." --Rick Kisonak, Film Threat "Structured like a narrative feature about the events leading to a violent showdown... Hamzeh uses filmmaking techniques action-movie directors use to show the growing tension and arming-up of the opposing forces. It feels like [Martin Scorcese's]"Gangs of New York" acted out by local police and ordinary people." --Glenn Andreiev, Films In Review   Source: Arab Film Distribution

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