For those of you who couldn't make it to our event, Farm to Film and Back, we are sharing our press release and photos from that evening.
If you were to visit us on a summer afternoon, the roof door would swing open as it did this evening, revealing a lucid landscape that is both familiar and foreign. A truncated forest of kale would lead you to this tented patio where—instead of finding this sheet of paper—you would find hands, brown from the sun and the soil, breaking bread. Smiling, and ravenous, the farmers of Brooklyn Grange would invite you to sit down and dig in.
As an innovative commercial farm and green roofing business with the goal of developing a sustainable model of urban agriculture, Brooklyn Grange grows a lot more than the 50,000 pounds of organic produce that it sells to local markets. Five years ago, RIF partnered with Brooklyn Grange to establish the Urban Farm Recovery Project, a paid fellowship for asylum seekers in urban agriculture. Much like the farm, the project has gone on to feed many, both literally and spiritually. While the farm comes alive, the RIF fellows transform with the landscape, and take root in their new environment.
This year, few were sheltered from the images and stories of people fleeing their homes for a chance to survive. Our farm fellows are some of these people. As the refugee crisis reached overwhelming proportions, they were received with a wide spectrum of support and opposition at various stages of their journey. Tonight, we celebrate Brooklyn Grange as a stop on their path; one that shifts the trajectory of their journey entirely. More importantly, we would like to relish in the process of that transformation, in the moments of dignity and camaraderie that sprout amidst the moments of fear and desperate hope.
The artists on view this evening are a vital part of what allows us to share these ineffable moments. They are the lens through which many audiences, who are not able to visit Brooklyn Grange or a refugee camp in Calais, may interact with the asylum seeker’s journey. All of the artists who document our work begin their exploration with a day on the farm, followed by many days of work off the farm to create the pieces you see today. Tonight, their work is back at the site of its genesis, and we invite you to explore the complex experiences examined in their creations. We hope that you will walk away with a sense of what breeds the asylum seeker’s journey, and what this journey breeds.
The Refugee and Immigrant Fund (RIF)
Since 2006, RIF has remained the only organization dedicated to serving refugees seeking asylum in NYC. Our programs provide newcomers with an accessible roadmap to the asylum process, as well as a chance to integrate and contribute to their new communities. In New York City alone, over 30,000 individuals applied for asylum in 2015. To learn more about how RIF supports asylum seekers during the most difficult stage of their journey, please visit RIFNYC.org
“What this Journey Breeds” By David Quateman & Eamon Redpath (20 mins) 2016
A short documentary film exploring the asylum seeker’s journey from fleeing, to seeking RIF’s support in NYC. For the last year, these two talented filmmakers were among a group of Fordham University students who participated in a series of teach-ins about RIF’s work with asylum seekers. The film examines the ways that asylum seekers are welcomed upon arriving to NYC, and how this often differs with their expectations of the American dream.
“And I am an Asylum Seeker” & “Grange” by Anabelle Declement (3:27 & 1:56 mins) 2016
Two short films that deconstruct the asylum seeker’s experience on and off the farm, and in-front-of and behind the camera. Also a Fordham student, Declement’s work embodies her skill and creativity as an observer. She uses the medium of film in a way that seems to capture not only sight and sound, but also smell, taste and touch.
“Roots” by Anne Saint-Pierre 2014-2016
A photographer and moving image designer/director by trade, Saint-Pierre’s eye for the ephemeral imbues her photos with an element of mystique and weight that is fitting to the subject explored in “Roots.” Since 2014, she has captured the essential moments of the Urban Farm Recovery Project, as well as RIF’s asylum support services.
Untitled by James McCracken Jr. 2015 - 2016
A United States Navy veteran, and the first of the Fordham students to arrive on the farm last season, McCracken brings a profound sense of intimacy to his work and his process. At times utilizing black and white photography, McCracken’s photos resemble paintings in their artful, intentional compositions.
“Réfugiés” by Jean-Baptiste Pellerin 2015 - 2016
Pellerin’s photos from the jungle of Calais, and the refugee encampment under the La Chapelle metro station in Paris encapsulate the temporal intimacy of street photography. His images and diptychs highlight in rich color, moments of human dignity within crushing environments, set within the backdrop of a historically dignified city. Pellerin’s exquisite pictures serve as context for the asylum seeker’s journey, and they explore the refugee’s immense will to live and to be respected.