This is a bit of a departure from my usual crafty offerings, but it’s creative, artistic and worthy of a mention none-the-less. Last weekend, I had the pleasure of meeting Sami Mermer, a filmmaker from Turkey, who is screening his first full-length film “The Box of Lanzo” (see clip) at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 24 at the Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts in Grand Rapids.
Click here to listen to my interview with Mermer.
The film shows his efforts to make a film about homeless people in Grand Rapids while he struggled to obtain refugee status in the United States, a request that was ultimately denied.
Interspersed with documentary style interviews with homeless people are dramatizations of Mermer’s repeated run-ins with FBI agents who questioned him about why he was filming in the city. His Middle Eastern appearance and penchant for video and still photography drew unwanted attention from law enforcement in a post-9/11 world, but he pressed on with his film project which offers an outsider’ s view of Grand Rapids and the homeless people who live there. Like the homeless men he features, Mermer was displaced and searching for a place to call home. The story is intriguing.
Friday’s benefit screening will be a rare opportunity to view and discuss the film with Mermer before he moves to Morocco next week with his wife, Hind Benchekroun
Attendees are encouraged to make a $10 donation at the door. Proceeds from Friday’s event will help Mermer finance the remainder of his project. A special reception and discussion will take place from 9 to 9:30 p.m. A benefit celebration with live entertainment and a painting exhibition will follow at 10 p.m.