Nearly 250 people fleeing persecution from around the world will resettle in East Tennessee this year. A team of University of Tennessee journalism students and their professor are telling those refugees' stories in a new documentary set to air on WBIR.com.
Assistant Professor Nick Geidner and student producer Abby Bower say they've spent so many hours working on the film, it's hard to count.
"I'd put it in terms of terms of days instead of hours," said Bower, a junior.
"We probably have 50-60 hours of footage," Geidner said.
They are putting the finishing touches on their 30-minute documentary film, "Seven Days in America," tweaking the the color and sound of every shot.
The filmmakers started on the project more than a year ago when Bridge Refugee Services approached Geidner about telling their story.
Bridge staff saw his students' last film about babies born dependent on drugs.
"When I took this [idea] back to my students, there was overwhelming support. They really wanted to participate and they were excited about getting involved with it," Geidner said.
Bower realized through the hours of planning and interviews how many misconceptions were out there about refugees.
"People might think refugees are coming to the United States to get a better life, but really they're in a situation they never wanted to be in. I didn't know that before. So I guess that's what I hope people get out of the film," Bower said.
The film follows a Burundi family being resettled in Knoxville after fleeing persecution and spending 12 years in a refugee camp. The filmmakers got access to the family's first moments experiencing freedom from fear.
Geidner admits it was one of the toughest projects he's ever tackled, but he knows his struggles are nothing compared to what refugee families face everyday.
"Whether my film gets done is not a big deal. Whether these people get medical care, get jobs, get a life is exponentially more important," said Geidner.
When the film is complete, it will be available for viewing on WBIR.com.
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