LEWISTON – The award-winning documentary “Rain in a Dry Land” will be given a free public screening at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 7, in Callahan Hall at the Lewiston Public Library.

The film portrays the saga of two Somali Bantu refugee families as they are relocated from Africa to America. Somali Bantus constitute the largest single African minority group to settle in the United States at one time, with 13,000 arriving in 2004. Descendants of slaves, the Bantus were persecuted and marginalized in Somalia until they escaped into Kenya during the Somali civil war in the early 1990s. After nearly 13 years in refugee camps, they began to make their way to urban America, finding new homes in San Diego, Nashville, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Syracuse – and Lewiston, with some 500 having settling here over the past two years. (This is in addition to Lewiston’s approximately 3,500 ethnic Somalis who began arriving here in 2001.)

In “Rain in a Dry Land” filmmaker Anne Makepeace seeks to tell an intimate, human story about “two extraordinary families who somehow managed to keep their spirits intact through years of mayhem and deprivation, and whose astonishing, open-hearted resilience enables them to make a new life.”

She refers to her film as “a story of time travel, culture shock, a leap from the 19th to the 21st century as these subsistence farmers find themselves in a mysterious and confusing land.”

Shown are the refugees’ wide-eyed amazement as they learn about refrigerators, stoves, bathtubs, elevators, stairs, schools, etc. Their excitement quickly evaporates, however, as the reality of being poor in America sets in. Yet despite poverty, racism and culture shock, both families find ways to survive and to create a safe haven for their war-torn families.

The winner of the Full Frame Working Films Award, “Rain in a Dry Land” garnered national attention when it was broadcast nationwide earlier this year on PBS as part of the independent documentary series, P.O.V. (Point of View).

Members of Lewiston’s Somali Bantu Community Mutual Assistance Association will be in attendance at the screening to offer comments and answer questions. For more information, call the library at 513-3135.

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