New Neighbors Project

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To Lindsay Ryder, it makes perfect sense to show films made by Montana’s African refugees on St. Patrick’s Day.

The Irish, after all, were once refugees struggling to build a new life in America.

The short documentaries, made by refugees now living in Missoula, will be shown Saturday night at Bozeman’s Rialto Theater.

The New Neighbors Project Films & Music event is hosted by the nonprofit Gallatin Refugee Connections. GRC was formed to create a welcoming environment for refugees in the Gallatin Valley and Montana and to counter anti-immigrant hostility.

The event is intended to “celebrate what makes this country unique by welcoming new voices, styles and music into our lives. Come meet your new neighbors.”

Some of the filmmakers — refugees from places like the Democratic Republic of Congo — will also attend and answer questions.

“Everyone who considers themselves American came from somewhere else,” said Ryder, a member of the Gallatin Refugee Connections coordinating committee.

“Being from Bozeman and watching the community grow and change dramatically,” she said, “I’m doing what I can to create a culture that’s more welcoming of diversity.”

The films include “Never Give Up While You Are Still Alive” by Joel Kambale, and “Kuwezesha Wanakate,” (Swahili for “women’s empowerment”) by Justine Binwa.

Binwa lived in a refugee camp for 20 years after being forced to flee to Tanzania because of violence in her home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Missoulian reported.

The mother of three children now lives in Missoula. Her 12-minute film shows the Congolese woman reading to her children, working as a hotel housekeeper, and cooking meals while dancing. It depicts the struggles of women for education and equal rights, while trying to hold onto her African identity.

Her husband Kambale’s film “Never Give Up,” celebrates his family’s safety in Missoula and grieves for the loss of their Congolese culture.

The New Neighbors Project was started to give refugees the skills to tell their own stories in video and give intimate glimpses of their lives, to counteract often false and inaccurate images of refugees in the media.

Tickets to the event are $10 plus a service fee, available at Cactus Records on online at The show is at 7:30 p.m., and doors open at 6:30 p.m.

On Wednesday, March 21, the Gallatin Refugee Connection is also one of the cosponsors of the opening reception for a documentary photography exhibit, “Who is a Refugee,” at Montana State University. The free, public event will be held form 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., in the Exit Gallery in the Strand Union Building.

That will be followed Wednesday night by a panel discussion on “Refugees & Displacement” in the SUB’s Procrastinator Theater from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Panelists include Shahid Haque, a Helena attorney who specializes in immigration and refugee law, Dr. Katie Woods, who recently returned from working with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, and documentary photographer Steve Cagan.

Co-sponsors include the Public History Workshop, MSU department of history & philosophy, MSU College of Letters and Science, and Humanities Montana.

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Gail Schontzler can be reached at 406-582-2633 or

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