Shedding Light on Syria: REACT to FILM Screens Documentary “After Spring”

Image courtesy of Commons.wikipedia.

Often enough, we see films and forget about them. We enter dark theaters with friends or family and leave, briefly discussing what we shared before grabbing a bite to eat.

However, on Thursday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. in Lecture Center 102, this was not the case. SUNY New Paltz’s chapter of REACT to FILM, a club dedicated to informing young people about social issues through film, debuted their first program of the year. The documentary, “After Spring,” about the Syrian refugee crisis, captivated the crowd followed by a riveting Q&A session led by students in the organization.

Prior to the screening, students signed in and informed the club of their interest in the power of documentary. The international organization, Oxfam, also held a table outside with petition asking the government for medical supplies and food for Syrian refugees.

“So many people on campus are here right now and it shows how important these issues are to people. They want to be informed,” said Madeline Barrasso, a fourth-year student and President of the Oxfam New Paltz chapter.

The event commenced with an introduction from President of the New Paltz REACT to FILM chapter and third-year student Lauren Alberti. She welcomed everyone and said the non-profit organization has a slew of chapters throughout the country, all of them watching “After Spring,” that week.

“After Spring,” directed and produced by Ellen Martinez and Steph Ching, focuses on two families in Zaatari, the largest Syrian refugee camp, attempting to start life anew in a place originally intended to be temporary. The documentary further focuses on aid workers battling to maintain the camp and those determined to bring normalcy to the children who make up more than half of Zataari’s population.

According to the film’s website, “With the Syrian conflict now in its sixth year, millions of people continue to be displaced. ‘After Spring’ is the story of what happens next.”

After the screening the conversation began. Alberti admitted a panel discussion usually ensues with professors, but the timing didn’t work out so students took the reigns. Questions ranged from: “Did your opinion of refugees change?” to, “Is the Western media perception of the crisis accurate?” Everyone dived into a respectful conversation that flourished despite conflicting opinions.

Students recounted their experiences studying abroad last spring in Greece, admitted their shock regarding how technologically connected the refugees are and attempted to shatter stereotypes surrounding refugees.

“It definitely opened my eyes,” fourth-year digital media management major and new REACT to FILM member Alexis Mascoli said.

According to Alberti, though the films themselves are important the point of the club includes actually doing something about the issues as well. Each film subsequently hosts a reaction event. The president said the event is currently undetermined, but they are hoping to find a way to spread awareness and raise money for the Syrian refugees. Interested students can check out their Facebook page, REACT to FILM SUNY New Paltz, for updates.