Jul 16

Using History to Inspire the Present

by Tiffany Froese

SOL Panel La Paloma

Every now and then, SDIFF has the great fortune of being able to show a film we love that is also so relevant to the zeitgeist that we are able to construct a panel in conjunction with the film.  Such is the case with Shores of Light: Salento 1945-1947.  The film covers a singular and little known moment in history right after WWII.  Released from Hitler’s death camps, thousands of Jews discovered that they had no home to return to.  Either their homes had been destroyed in the war, or their governments had given them to non-Jews.  Many felt they could not return to the places that had betrayed them and their only desire was to go to what would shortly become Israel.  Displaced Persons camps were set up all over Europe, but there was nothing like the four located in Puglia.  The refugees were housed in majestic villas on the shores of the Ionian and Adriatic seas as they awaited the Italian pirate ships that would carry them across the British Blockade.  During this time, hundreds of babies were born to the refugees who awaited these ships.  The film follows three of these babies, who are now grown Israeli women, as they discover the stories behind the place of their births.  It is a story of hope and light after a time of great darkness.

Today, we are facing a global humanitarian crisis unlike any we’ve ever seen.  There are 65 million displaced people worldwide.  Women, men, and children fleeing places like Syria, South Sudan, and Central America.  They can’t go back.  For many, there is nothing to go back to, just piles of rubble that used to be homes, office buildings and museums. Compounding the crisis is the wave of populist sentiment washing over the Western world – the part of the world that was once seen as the paragon of refuge.

Is there hope?

That’s a question our panelists faced this past Thursday at the Shores of Light screening at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas (There will be another screening and panel this coming Thursday at MOPA).  David Murphy, Executive Director of the International Rescue Committee, gave attendees the landscape of the current global refugee situation, noting that most refugees await resettlement in refugee camps for 17 years and less than 1% are resettled in a host country per year.  Dhaha Nur, a Student Organizer with the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans and himself a Somali refugee, projected that with the political, economic and environmental climates, the number of displaced persons will only rise.  The outlook is bleak.  So where do these experts see hope?  Undoubtedly, in community.

The effectiveness of community to comfort and aid those who have been through the worst experiences imaginable is the the thrust of Shores of Light and Nadine Toppozada, Director of Refugee Services of Catholic Charities Diocese of San Diego, related that this sense of community is a lifeline for those families for whom resettlement is just the beginning.  She told the story of a Syrian family who had survived the civil war and refugee camps and was settled here in San Diego.  In January, their 17-year-old son was swimming with friends from school in Pacific Beach when he was caught in a rip current and drowned.  There was an outpouring of support from the refugee community, but also from San Diegans – parents who had lost a child or those who had also had a loved one that drowned in the sea reached out, despite not speaking a common language.  There is hope in that kind of compassion for other human beings.

Attendees at Thursday’s screening and panel discussion were encouraged to do some research on the current refugee crisis and get involved whether it’s volunteering with one of the agencies working on refugee resettlement, or influencing policy at the political level.

If you missed the screening at La Paloma or you want to see the film again, there is another screening followed by a panel discussion this Thursday, July 20th at 7:30 pm at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.

If you would like to do more research about the world’s refugees, the following are essential organizations with local chapters:

Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans


Catholic Charities USA


Jewish Family Services


International Rescue Committee


Alliance for African Assistance


  • Posted Under: Blog
  • Post created on: July 16th, 2017