‘Reel America’: Slater Mill film series highlights diversity and immigration

‘Reel America’: Slater Mill film series highlights diversity and immigration

PAWTUCKET – This summer, Slater Mill, a site that’s part of the fabric of Rhode Island’s immigration history, is hosting a film series that explores America’s diverse communities.

Titled “Reel America: A Mosaic of Diverse Communities in Film,” the outdoor film series will run on Wednesdays at 8 p.m., starting July 19 with a screening of “The Namesake,” a movie about a family’s move (and adjustment) from Calcutta, India, to New York City, based on Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel of the same name.

“It’s such a timely moment to do a series on immigration,” Erika Davis, events and programs manager at Slater Mill, told The Valley Breeze, adding that the mill, which has been part of the dialogue on immigration for more than 200 years, is a great venue to show the films.

While Slater Mill has hosted movie screenings in the past, this is its first film series – a collaboration between Davis and Lori Urso, the mill’s executive director.

The eight films “represent the diverse people and cultures in Rhode Island and the stories that need to be told and shared,” Davis said. “We wanted to provide films that would be relatable and accessible to our community – films that were representative of the types of immigrants and refugees” in the area.

The six-week series is presented by the Old Slater Mill Association with funding from a Rhode Island Foundation Community Grant.

While many outdoor movie screenings show recent releases or Disney films, Reel America brings to light serious topics that are relevant to the community, while still providing entertainment, Davis said.

After the first film on July 19, the schedule is as follows: “Under the Same Moon” on July 26; “Bend It Like Beckham” on Aug. 2; “Papers: Stories of Undocumented Youth” and “God Grew Tired of Us,” a double feature on Aug. 9; “Sugar” and “Selena,” another double feature on Aug. 16; and the final film, “The Secret of the Grain” on Aug. 23.

All movies are free admission and are rated PG or PG-13. The films will be projected onto a 17-foot screen installed on the side of the bell tower at Slater Mill, 67 Roosevelt Ave., in Pawtucket.

Because it’s a free community event, Davis said they selected films that will be entertaining and language accessible; most will be shown with Spanish language subtitles.

The big overarching theme throughout the movies is identity, and in most, “the struggle to belong in America,” Davis said. “As different as the films are, they unify around the concepts of identity, resolve, and belonging across international borders.”

Some movies explore celebrated cultural contributions of artists and athletes, as in “Selena,” a biographical film about Tejano musician Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, who was killed at the age of 23; “Sugar,” which tells the story of Miguel “Sugar” Santos, who, at 19 years old, advanced to the U.S. minor leagues after playing baseball professionally in the Dominican Republic; and the British soccer hit “Bend It Like Beckham,” which Davis said is one of her favorite movies.

Other films are “more serious portrayals of the struggles and conflicts faced by refugees and immigrants,” Davis said, such as “God Grew Tired of Us,” a documentary about three Sudanese refugees who fled their war-torn country and adjust to life in the U.S., and “Papers: The Stories of Undocumented Youth,” which explains the obstacles and struggles that undocumented students face in the U.S., especially after graduating high school and looking toward their futures.

Out of all the movies, Davis said she learned the most from watching “Papers.”

Those attending the screenings can bring blankets, chairs, snacks, and beverages. The Slater Mill store will be open for concessions and restrooms.

Parking is available in the Slater Mill lot, off Slater Avenue. The site is accessible to those with limited mobility.

Visit www.slatermill.org .