South Charlotte

Charlotte film crew shines light on efforts to help refugees

Charlotte crew shines light on help for refugees

Inspired by an outreach program at Myers Park Presbyterian Church, a volunteer crew from Charlotte traveled to Hungary to tell the story of refugees from Iran and Iraq.
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Inspired by an outreach program at Myers Park Presbyterian Church, a volunteer crew from Charlotte traveled to Hungary to tell the story of refugees from Iran and Iraq.

Imagine being absolutely alone in a country where no one wants you, you have no job, home or money. You’ve been forced to flee your home because of violence.

Imagine people judging you, being afraid of you and shutting you out simply because of where you were born. Then, look into the eyes of a 4-year-old Iranian boy who’d just spent the last three years without his father.

Mohammedreza had to leave Iran or be killed. He would not, could not support the extreme government. He sobbed when he met his family, taking his son in his arms at the Budapest airport after 36 months of separation.

There also was an Iraqi engineer who described bombs going off near his Christian church. The only work he can get now in Budapest is as a cook.

Our nonprofit documentary company, Mission Film Works, went to Hungary to tell the story of a Christian church bucking national sentiment by trying to help a few dozen stranded men, women and children in Budapest. We had no political agenda, and made it a point to not get in those discussions.

We had just three days to shoot the documentary, “An Act of Trust.”

I should say we had three frigidly cold days and an all-volunteer film crew to shoot the documentary, inspired by the Rev. Derek Macleod, the outreach minister at Myers Park Presbyterian Church, which has a sister church in Debrecen, Hungary.

While visiting the sister church, Macleod took a side trip and saw the small but impactful efforts of Kalunba Charities, an arm of the church of Scotland. At that time, Hungary was detaining refugees, closing it’s border, and fostering antirefugee media campaigns.

Kolunba, without fanfare and on just a shoestring budget, has been helping people without food, shelter or work. This same Scottish Christian church in Budapest sheltered Jewish girls during the Holocaust. In fact, one of the Christian teachers, Jane Haining, died in Auschwitz with her students.

Dora Kanizasai started the Kalunba Charity. They offer Hungarian language lessons and help asylum-seekers find work, shelter, friendship, and a sense of community.

There is a Holocaust Monument along the bank of the Danube – cast iron shoes in 1940’s styles. They’re a solemn reminder that the time Nazis lined Jewish people up on the bank there, made them remove their shoes, then shot them and pushed their bodies in the river.

The clip from our film “An Act of Trust” on the Observer’s website recalls that moment, with a question about whether some of those murdered, had also sought refuge.

“The world is too dangerous for anything but truth, too small for anything but love,” said William Sloan Coffin, a now-deceased Presbyterian minister and peace activist.

We saw that at every turn in Budapest.

Like the Rev. Macleod says in the film, “To tell someone that I see your humanity, and I know that you are someone who needs love and welcome and a new beginning, that you are worth betting on – worth loving. That is an act of trust that makes this world a better place.”

We had a great number of volunteers who helped with the July 21 film premiere. People from Myers Park Presbyterian, the Charlotte Rotary Club and NoDa brewery. Our film company also is all volunteer.

Also, it was recently announced that the film will be part of the 2016 Charlotte Film Festival, which will take place Sept. 22-Oct. 2.

In just three frigid days in Budapest, we worked like dogs, not for money, but for the reward of using our communication skills to tell a story that had not been told.

We met wonderful people, and are continuing our friendships. However, to be completely honest, that little 4-year old boy? As precious as he was, kicked me in the shin, repeatedly.