Try to imagine what it’s like sponsoring a person you don’t know to immigrate to Canada.
That’s the premise of a National Film Board offering at this year’s DOXA Documentary Film Festival, Someone Like Me, which takes viewers inside a Rainbow Refugee Circle of Hope. These are volunteers who sponsor an LGBT person to come to Canada to escape persecution in their home country.
Directed by Sean Horlor and Steve J. Adams, this intensely personal documentary tells the story of Drake, a young Ugandan gay man. Over the phone from Nairobi, he expresses heartfelt gratitude to the Vancouverites who agreed to backstop him during his first year in Canada.
Someone Like Me admirably demonstrates the astonishing kindness of strangers in our city. The earnest discussions of the circle members, their fundraising efforts, and their joy on Drake's arrival day are enough to whip up feelings of patriotism in even the most hardened antinationalist.
But Drake’s propensity to party after coming to Vancouver creates friction within the group, with some expressing dismay as others remain eager to support him on his journey.
Horlor and Adams also show many sides of Vancouver in this film—including the gritty Downtown Eastside, the inside of Little Sisters Book and Art Emporium, Sunset Beach, and the alleys of East Van. Who doesn't love seeing our city presented on-screen, even after all these years of Hollywood North?
However, it's the touching moments—and the tension—that will keep viewers riveted. Some of the nighttime shots really drive that home.
Meanwhile, a second, surprising storyline sends the film in an altogether different direction. That's the beauty of documentaries—events sometimes unfold in unpredictable ways.
The heroism of Rainbow Refugee’s Vancouver founder, Chris Morrissey, is on full display at the beginning. It's about time that this local organization's incredible work to save lives receives feature treatment on-screen.
It only later becomes apparent that unforeseen challenges can emerge for those providing sanctuary to LGBT people in Canada.
“Canada is the only country in the world that has legislation for a refugee program that specifically reaches out to LGBT people globally,” Morrissey says at one point.
By the stirring end of this film, one can only say “hallelujah”.