In December 2019, we collaborated with Lokchi Lam, a videomaker and media instructor originally from Hong Kong, to organize a series of six workshops with LGBTQ+ asylum-seekers affiliated with the MCC Church.
The workshops were held at Ryerson University and provided basic video recording and storytelling skills to around 30 participants. The experience resulted in a 10-minute documentary film that tells the story of a professional class of Black LGBT people who have escaped harrowing, hair-raising experiences of discrimination, shunning, tribal threats of torture, abuse, and hate crimes, only to come here and be told that their education and their professional experience is worth next to nothing.
Participants came from a wide variety of professional backgrounds including, banking, retail, management, business, parenting – but they were all eager to learn new skills and perfect them.
Workshop sessions focused on three-point lighting, camera operation, sound recording, the art of the interview, writing monologues, and editing. We also spent time brainstorming and discussing the main themes, which were identified as housing, employment, and the interminable refugee determination process. This often led to heated discussion, and provided a way for the participants to express some of their frustrations with governments, racist landlords, and the colonial structure of “Canadian experience”. Participants really wanted to depict the struggles they had experienced through a very gentle and organic process of interviewing. They were also keen to show the joy and relief of being in Canada.
The workshop series culminated in the production of a 10 minute film, which was edited by Karen Vanderboght, also a migrant. In it, stories of Black LGBT people who have escaped harrowing, hair-raising experiences of discrimination, shunning, tribal threats of torture, abuse, and hate crimes, are explored.
The film reflects the reality that after arduous journeys, these migrants are told that their education and their professional experience is worth next to nothing.
It also highlights how they are subjected to months and years of waiting for hearings and appeals. But what also comes through is their kindness, patience and resolve, and their deep relief that being in a place where they can express their sexuality more-or-less freely. Subtextually, the film raises questions about whether sexual liberation can exist without racial and economic equity.
“I was unable to get a job, reason being that I was asked if I have a Canadian experience, that was the barrier. It was really tough on me”.
“I came to Canada when my life was at risk back home in Nigeria because of my sexual orientation…When I was caught back home because of my sexual orientation, I had to run away, take my kids to my mom”.
“Being a refugee claimant in Canada? It’s not been easy. I just came here, just with luggage, a few clothes nothing came here with me. … just my passport that was the only thing I had on me to identify myself.… So life was just from the scratch, from the very beginning”.
Field Notes and References
Project Finding Home 2nd & 3rd media workshops- Field Work Notes Dec-March 2019-2020
Dr. Marusya Bociurkiw