About this project
THANK YOU ALL! We've reached our initial 25k goal! We set the 25k goal to cover the very minimum of what is needed to complete the film. There are however, many other costs associated with marketing and advertising a film that we did not make a priority in our initial goal.
We've set a new goal of 30k to help pay for some of these costs that will make sure our completed film will be seen by as many people as possible.
Let's keep the momentum going and make it to our new goal!
More money=more people seeing this film. Thanks again!
Right outside Atlanta, Georgia is a small charter school that brings together refugee children from war-torn countries all over the world and teaches them alongside local American children. A Place In The World follows three families with ties to the school, a first year teacher, and the new principal of the school over the course of two years, as they adapt to, and learn from, this diverse and complex social environment. The film asks the question of whether we can all live together in this rapidly changing world.
Education in the United States has recently come under much deserved scrutiny from the American public as well as the media. Simultaneously, many public school systems throughout the country have seen their budgets drastically cut and are forced to do more with much less. A Place In The World is a feature-length documentary about a small charter school called “The International Community School" (ICS). The school takes on an issue that plagues many communities: what to do for the refugee and immigrant populations whose children are falling behind in traditional public schools. ICS’ conclusion: placing these kids together with local American children will allow for a trade-off that, if nurtured and encouraged, will benefit both parties greatly. The school is comprised of about half refugee students, half local American kids.
ICS is located in a small suburb outside of Atlanta, Georgia – a place with its own divisive history of acceptance, integration, and social change. In a way, ICS acts as a microcosmic laboratory for how we can all get along. The community ICS serves was reported by the New York Times to be “the most diverse square mile in America” where over 60,000 refugees have been resettled. ICS’ refugee student body accurately reflects the global sociopolitical climate at any given time. If there is strife and violence somewhere in the world, there are most likely children from that place at ICS. Such a concentration of peoples, naturally, brings friction. The parents, coming from worlds apart, hold various ideologies, religions and values that come into conflict with one another. The children, whose identities are still being formed, see something very different. They are stretched between two worlds: one of cultural meshing, and one of traditional belief. Despite their many differences, all the families have something very much in common – they want a better life for their children.
The film takes place over two school years and examines a number of important and relevant themes, such as how we form our identities and how we can learn from those around us to build stronger communities. The film demonstrates that despite all of the enormous challenges and obstacles facing this country, the United States is still a beacon of hope for so many seeking safety and a better future for their children.
This film is an ensemble piece. Their stories are weaved together based on specific themes being discussed and the similarity of their arcs. These themes are examined in the film through the following five storylines:
1) A Burmese refugee teaching-assistant at ICS and her family. Having escaped from the military junta in Burma (Myanmar) with their children and just the clothes on their back, husband and wife Htwe and Myo struggled to adjust in this country for many years. Through constant perseverance and an unwavering drive to make a better life for their children, they have become leaders in their community. Htwe is a teaching assistant at ICS and the school's only Burmese employee. In an area with an enormous and constantly growing Burmese refugee population, Htwe and Myo are the only ones many of the Burmese refugees can turn to for help in this new country. Htwe and Myo use their past experiences to help newly arrived refugees while trying to raise their Americanized children to respect and appreciate their Burmese heritage.
2) A recently arrived Sudanese refugee father with two sons at ICS. Butros Kebe brought his family to the United States after escaping the brutal civil war in Sudan and a harsh nomadic life in refugee camps in Ethiopia. Now in the US, Butros labors to support his family of eight on little more than minimum wage. He works the night shift at a chicken factory, sometimes not seeing his wife and children for days at a time. Two of his sons, Khamis and Bashir, have their own difficulties. Upon arrival at ICS, Bashir didn't even understand the concept of school. Both he and his brother Khamis have a difficult time keeping up with their classmates. Soon however, Butros' sons become better speakers of English than their father, dramatically changing the role Butros sees himself playing in their lives.
3) A young American boy at ICS and his father. Zade and his father Harvey are a pretty typical Southern male duo. As Harvey puts it: they hunt, they fish, and they love NASCAR with a passion. Yet in ICS' fairly liberal and very diverse atmosphere the two of them could not seem more foreign. Zade fits in perfectly in many of the southern communities outside of ICS, but inside he often feels like an outcast and finds it hard to relate to many of the other kids. Zade seeks to find his place in ICS while Harvey debates whether or not ICS is the right school for his son.
4) A first year teacher at ICS and his struggling refugee student. As a first year teacher at ICS and an immigrant from Britain, Drew Whitelegg (Mr. Drew, as he's know to his students) works hard to adapt to a new work environment as he tries to teach a loud and rowdy class of some of the school's more troubled kids. He uses his classroom's diversity as a tool to help his students learn more about themselves from learning about each other. Mr. Drew provides a glimpse into what it's like to be a teacher at such a diverse school where the students have a wide array of problems and needs.
Zozan, a young Iraqi girl, is one of Mr. Drew's 4th grade students. She struggles academically and is one of the more troubled kids in the class. At home, Zozan lives in a traditional Muslim world but each day goes to school as a modern American girl. She often takes out the frustration brought on by living two very different lives in class. Seeing that Zozan needs extra help and attention, Mr. Drew takes it upon himself to mentor her, seeing a potential in her that she doesn't see in herself, with the hope that she can become the talented and capable young woman he knows she can be.
5) ICS’ new principal. Dr. Laurent Ditmann left a professorship in academe, completely disillusioned by educational institutions, with the hope that at a school like ICS he could make a real difference. A native of France and the son of Jewish refugees and holocaust survivors, Laurent provides a fitting perspective on the importance of a school that brings together children from diverse racial, cultural, and religious backgrounds. As the school's new principal, Laurent shows us what the school is and can grow to be, while working hard to keep it afloat on a tight budget that continues to shrink.
While telling these stories the film also examines what many refugees must go through to adapt to life in the United States. The film also looks at the state of American public education as ICS struggles to define itself and its role in this unique community.
“There is no blueprint.” – Laurent Ditmann (ICS Principal)
The idea for A Place in the World came from a New York Times article written by Warren St. James. You can read that article here.
In the spring of 2008, we (Co-Directors Adam Maurer and William Silva Reddington) were seniors at The Savannah College of Art and Design looking for a subject we thought would make an engaging short documentary. The two of us, along with our producer Marius Crowne, went to visit the school to see it for ourselves and decide whether or not it held stories that would make for an exciting film. Immediately, we all realized how special ICS was and after meeting with the school’s founders, principal, board, and legal council we gained permission to film at the school.
Then came the hard part. We had to raise the money to make it. This was in 2008 before Kickstarter even existed. We had to raise all of the capital ourselves from family, friends, and a few incredibly kind and generous supporters. This was also our first feature film together and we hadn’t yet graduated from film school. It was a hard sell, but apparently our passion for the project came through to investors and donors and we began to get money. It took a while, but after a few months of constant fundraising we got the funds to make the short film. When we weren’t fundraising we were spending our time at ICS without cameras. By being a constant presence at the school we got to know many of the children and teachers quite well. In any documentary, but especially one that focuses on children and people who are coming from traumatic circumstances, trust between filmmaker and subject is absolutely vital. So with that in mind we put ourselves in the environment and helped teachers in the classroom. We stayed after school and we ate lunch with the kids. After not too long we had formed bonds with the staff and became a familiar and welcome sight for the students.
Slowly we began introducing our cameras to the school. We never had a crew larger than two at any given time with the goal of being discreet and unobtrusive. By the end of the first year of filming we had become part of the school and the community surrounding it. It was then we realized that these stories would take longer than one year to truly capture. It could no longer be a short film either… It would have to be a feature.
We stayed another year and it turned out to be the right decision. Over the course of two years people truly change, children learn so much and grow so quickly. Because we spent the time this film deserved, we were able to capture true change and growth from our subjects - something that makes this a truly special film. Last year we wrapped principal photography and began to edit. With over 100 hours of footage from our two years of filming we spent an entire year putting this film together. It’s now so close to completion, but we can’t finish it without your help.
WHERE WE STAND NOW:
We’ve now been in post-production for one year. The film is a complete cut. We are not picture-locked (completely done with no changes to be made) but we are very close. We are fast approaching picture lock, and once we’re locked, the film will be musically scored, sound mixed to DOLBY Digital 5.1 Surround, and color corrected. This is where we need financial help. We have done everything on this project so far with only three main people. It has been an incredibly challenging and worthwhile task and has taught us so much.
Unfortunately, now there are aspects required to finalize the project that we are unable to do ourselves and that cost money. We have found the truly talented individuals to complete these tasks, and while they are working for far less than they normally do, they still can’t do it for free. Also, once the film is entirely complete, we need to get it out there for the world to see. This also costs money. If this film speaks to you or is a film you would want to see, please help.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
Kickstarter is a truly revolutionary tool. This is our first time using it. When we needed money to start production of our film back in 2008, we exhausted all of our resources and got every bit of money from every person we knew. What makes Kickstarter so special is that we may not know you personally, but if the film speaks to you and is something you would like to see out there in the world, you can become a part of it. The themes of this film are universal, inspiring, and will create a positive debate in what more and more seems like such a negative public sphere of discussion.
Making a film is not easy and it’s not cheap. Everyone knows this. What is surprising to many people and was a bit of a shock to us is how expensive it is to get a film finalized and out there for the world to see. Times are hard and any generosity would be greatly appreciated. Check out some of the incentives and rewards to the right of your screen. They may not be much in relation to what you’re giving, but know that you are helping to get important stories out there for the world to see.
The money we receive from you will go towards sound design, music scoring, color correction, archival video releases and/or an entertainment lawyer specializing in fair use, marketing (P&A), film festival submission fees, and online delivery costs.
Is Kickstarter really all or nothing? What happens if we don't hit the goal within the time span?
Yes, it really is all or nothing. If we don't raise the whole amount ($25k), we will receive nothing. Your credit card will never be charged.
When will I receive my rewards?
We will make it a priority to get your rewards to you as quickly as possible to say thanks for your support! Delivery of DVD copies of the film and arrangement of screenings will be upon film completion. We will contact you following funding to arrange for tickets.
Can we exceed the goal?
Yep! That would be awesome. The more money we raise here, the bigger and better the film and release will be.
Can I increase my pledge once I've made one?
Absolutely! After you've pledged once, just sign into Kickstarter, click on the "Manage Your Donation" button that will have replaced the "Back this Project" button and enter a higher amount. And, if you like, select the corresponding (higher) reward.
What if I don't want to receive a reward?
Then we will be deeply indebted to you for your selfless generosity and appreciate your backing of the arts. There's a button you can select indicating that you don't want a reward.
Will my pledge be displayed publicly?
Nope. No one will know how much you pledge except for us.
If I don't live in the U.S., can I still back this project and receive rewards?
Yes! If you contribute enough to merit a material reward, then please help us cover shipping costs by adding $1 if you're in Canada and $5 if you live elsewhere. You can write in any amount for your pledge. So, instead of entering $50, for example, write in $51 if you live in Canada or $55 if you live outside of Canada or the U.S.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SUPPORTING THIS FILM!
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