The world has changed in so many unexpected ways since our broadcast premiere on Global Voices – and particularly in the last 2+ weeks – that I felt compelled to reach out to you again. In these unsettling times, where so many people are feeling marginalized, helpless and unsafe, the stories of moral courage, possibility and hope expressed by the remarkable young women in “My So-Called Enemy” feel more important than ever, because they remind us of our shared humanity.
On January 21st, I joined more than 1 million people from all corners of the nation for the Women’s March on Washington, D.C. It was an exhilarating and unforgettable experience: a powerful demonstration of peace, love and unity voiced by people of all ages and backgrounds. And a rallying cry for a host of human rights protections currently at risk. There was a sense of jubilation to the day as we danced and chanted “Love, not hate, makes America great!” Everyone we encountered - from the D.C Metro employees to the military personnel and police force - seemed to be with us.
Almost everyone I know was also protesting that day. And we will continue to protest - against the Muslim travel ban and registry, alt-right appointments, media blackouts and budget cuts that threaten the arts and free speech – and whatever the next calls to action are. To be part of a national and global movement that is choosing inclusion and compassion over bigotry and hatred and not staying silent in an atmosphere promoting fear, “otherness” and “enemies,” restores my faith that each of us can make a difference.
As the daily news cycle has already borne out, each protest you join, each petition you sign, each phone call you make and letter you send to people in the current administration, is being heard – not only by our politicians and lawmakers, but by people throughout the globe.
As many of you know, I have been speaking and teaching with “My So-Called Enemy” for six years now – at high schools, on college and university campuses and at religious and cultural institutions – using the film to not only deepen understanding and counter negative stereotypes about Palestinians, Israelis, and Muslims, Jews and Christians, but as a teaching and conflict resolution tool to help build bridges of understanding across all kinds of difference.
The inspiration behind inviting Lisa Gossels to Mount Holyoke College was hope – hope for having honest conversations even in the situations when positive outcomes seem too hard to achieve. With “My So-Called Enemy,” we find ourselves opening our hearts and minds to new possibilities, thinking differently about the potential limitations imposed by narratives, identities and labels. Lisa invites us to bring our full selves to the table, and no matter how difficult, to keep on talking … and listening.
– Elizaveta Lozovaya and Amelia Ender, Muslim and Jewish Chaplains and Community Advisors; Mount Holyoke College
Days after the general election, I was invited to Mount San Jacinto College in Southern California to present “My So-Called Enemy,” thanks to Raymond Shaw and Tamara Smith, two faculty members on the Diversity Committee.
Introducing the film, I said:
No matter how you voted, this is the time to come together, to talk to each other, to listen to each other, to embrace our differences and to remember that we are mostly a nation of immigrants, that our diversity is our strength, and that we cannot abide by the normalization of hate.
We are a nation, and world, divided. And, it is a sad and scary time for many. As such, I would tell you to be vigilant, to stand up against and to report injustice, to be activists, to be organizers, to be leaders if you want. So that our next administration can truly be "by the people and for the people."
THIS is what democracy looks like!
Identity workshop, Mount Holyoke College
Identity workshop, Mount San Jacinto College
Identity workshop, Amherst College
Some of the courageous young women in the movie
The Q&A after the screening was the longest I’ve ever experienced - well over an hour. The feedback from the students and faculty was best summarized by Ray Shaw: “I can't thank you enough for what you provided our students. I hope they will take the love you shared and give it openly to all they encounter. It is through our compassion and empathy we will make the world a better place, regardless of the hatefulness that surrounds us.”
Compelled to continue meaningful dialogue, educational, religious and cultural institutions are screening and inviting me to share “My So-Called Enemy” in their communities – often for a second time; I am thrilled to be returning to Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, NY on February 27th for a screening that will be open to the public, and classroom visits where I will conduct a talk and identity workshop called “Don’t Make Any Assumptions,” in which I share my learning about conflict resolution in the making of the film.
I’ve facilitated these talks/workshops as many as 5 times in one campus visit - in classrooms, free periods, over meals, with faculty, clergy, administrators, and students – even with 90 male athletes and their coaches at Amherst College! It's not necessary to have seen the film to participate, so institutions find it affords them an opportunity to engage even more students.
The outcomes of the identity workshop have been transformative; participants are surprisingly honest and unafraid to be vulnerable, new friendships are formed and people who see each other on a daily basis come away with a deeper understanding of one another – often finding they have more in common than what they thought may have divided them. As such, the workshop can also be a powerful tool for intra- and multi-faith work.
As always, I find myself constantly inspired by the courageous young women in "My So-Called Enemy" – who teach us about the importance of listening to and understanding each other in times of conflict. They remind us of the necessity to build bridges – not walls - across personal, political, cultural, religious and physical divides. And that we cannot afford not to remain hopeful.
If your community or institution would benefit from a screening, of “My So-Called Enemy,” or from its inclusion in your curricula, streaming licenses and DVDs are available through New Day Films. Educational streaming licenses are also available on Kanopy Streaming if your institution has access to the platform.
Thank you, as always, for being part of the journey with “My So-Called Enemy!"
"MY SO-CALLED ENEMY" a good egg production
director/producer Lisa Gossels producer Eden Wurmfeld
director of photography Justin Schein edited by Lisa Gossels
David Mehlman Toby Shimin music by Nathan Larson
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