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A documentary film about being young and a refugee in America
(Click on the images to read their stories.)



SETTLING IN SEATTLE is an independent, one-hour documentary film profiling a day in the life of four refugee youth - from Iraq, Vietnam, Kosovo and Sudan - who have left behind the years of threats and persecutions, and the hardships of living in refugee camps to build new lives in America. Shot on mini-DV on location in Seattle, WA, with a grant from the International Rescue Committee and mentorship from various members of the U.S. resettlement community, SETTLING IN SEATTLE seeks to show, through personal testimony, the challenges and triumphs that young refugees in America experience as they overcome language barriers, start new schools and new relationships with peers, find jobs, and confront personal grief that comes with loss or separation of family. Through reflections on their past lives with surprisingly clear observations of their current ones, these four individuals portray the resiliency of youth and the beauty of succeeding when given a second chance. Their stories, which are partly narrated by the American people involved in their lives; the teachers, the foster moms, the mentors and others ­shows in a subtle manner that beyond the benefits that refugees receive from the U.S. resettlement program, they leave behind an imprint on the lives of the American people they connect with and by such, help strengthen the social fabric of America.

A regionally-focused film, SETTLING IN SEATTLE has images of the Seattle area interspersed throughout the documentary, combined with music by local Seattle musicians as well as artists from the four represented countries.

SETTLING IN SEATTLE, which is directed and produced by Lisa Russell of Governess Films for community level advocacy activities on World Refugee Day (June 20th) and its 2003 theme of "refugee youth", presents the following compelling stories of MARWA, JACOB, Y DAM BHU and SAMIR whose paths to America may be as different as their personalities, but who all share the common goal of overcoming obstacles and taking advantage of the opportunities presented to them in the U.S. For, as each of them disclose, they intend to become contributing members of American society as well as active participants in the betterment of their home countries.

Refugee admissions to the U.S. have fallen drastically since the events of September 11th, leaving many refugee youth stranded in refugee camps or waiting on postponed reunifications with loved ones. The White House denied the U.S. resettlement community's request to reinstate the approximate 43,000 refugee slots that went unfilled in FY 2002 for the following year. "Settling in Seattle" will be used by community groups on World Refugee Day (June 20th) to advocate for reinstatement of these slots for FY 2004 and continued support of the U.S. Resettlement Program under the new Department of Homeland Security.


Seattle, WA - Univ. of WA, Thursday, June 19th, 7-9:30pm
IRC-Seattle, will host a screening of SETTLING IN SEATTLE plus a Q&A with the film's participants.

New York, NY - Ford Foundation, Friday, June 20th, 4-5pm
SETTLING IN SEATTLE will screen in collaboration with workshops and discussions led by international agencies such as IRC, Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Youth, CARE, Global Action Project, Office of the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict.

IRC's Community Collaboratives for Refugee Women and Youth
The Community Collaboratives program will have SETTLING IN SEATTLE sent to all 10 national sites (Minneapolis, MN, Chicago, IL, Salt Lake City, UT, Dallas, TX, Houston, TX, Baltimore, MD, Phoenix, AZ, Raleigh, NC, Seattle WA and Columbus, OH)

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services
SETTLING IN SEATTLE will be sent to LIRS' national sites to be screened for World Refugee Day.

Youth orgs
Several other youth organizations including groups from Amnesty International, World Relief and others have requested a copy of SETTLING IN SEATTLE for screenings on WRD.


Tentative Schedule for Settling in Seattle
(As of December 28, 2002)


Jan 1 - Shoot Lost Boys birthday celebration for fundraising promo tape

mid-Janaury - Launch

Feb 1 - All potential stories identified

Feb 2 - NYC-based Fundraising Event

Feb 2-7 - Lisa speaks to participants by phone

Feb 9 - Lisa/Don arrive in CA

Feb 16 - Lisa, Bob and Don arrive in Seattle

Feb 17 - Presidents Day - Project begins

Feb 17 - 20 - Lisa and Megan meet with resettlement agencies and film subjects; training begins with refugee youth filmmaking participants; filmmakers shoot exterior atmosphere shots around Seattle and Tacoma.

Feb 21 - Mar 6 - Shoot schedule

3 days spent intimately with each character, order of shooting to be determined pending events and schedules


March 20 - Tapes logged and interviews transcribed, all footage digitized

May 1 - Promo piece available on-line

June 1 - Final rough cut completed

June 7 - 10 - On-line edit/master beta created/VHS copies dubbed

June 12-15 - VHS copies sent out to resettlement agencies

June 20 - World Refugee Day screenings and activities


Lisa Russell, MPH, Producer/Director/Editor

Lisa has a background in international health and development which she now uses to create effective media social issue campaigns blending documentary filmmaking with community activism. With experience working in the humanitarian field (as a relief worker in Kosovo and Albania) and with filmmaking credits including Producer and Director of Speak Up Young Africa, Ghana Segment Producer for a PBS-broadcasted UNFPA film on population and the environment called Changing Nature, and co-Producer for a Channel 4 London World AIDS Day 2000 news report, Brazil: Patents versus Patients on Brazil's AIDS policy, Lisa strategically addresses pressing civil society issues through innovative filmmaking styles. Lisa also has experience with arts training and development after creating a 3-year, Soros-funded project entitled, "Photos for Peace" which provides photography training to rural Kosovar youth as a means to explore peace and rehabilitation in the region.
In September, 2002, Lisa was a recipient of the Document This! grant program of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the Community Collaboratives for Refugee Women and Children for her proposal of SETTLING IN SEATTLE.

Ellen Lovejoy, Executive Producer

Ellen is the New York-based representative for the London-based TV distributor, Target Distribution. With over 11 years experience working in film/TV distribution, Ellen is overseeing broadcast options with networks.

Per Billgren, Co-Producer

Per is an Indian-born Swedish citizen who, as a photographer and filmmaker, immigrated to Seattle at the age of 14 after spending his childhood years growing up in Singapore. Per has co-produced and/or edited various human interest television documentaries for the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, the Learning Channel, National Geographic, and ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

Hillevi Loven, Cinematographer

Hillevi has a background in still photography, shooting both commercial and documentary images. She was cinematographer for which won Best Documentary at the Wisconsin Film Festival in 2000.

Megan Paul, Researcher

Megan is a private educational consultant and freelance writer. With a B.A. in Education from the Pacific Lutheran University with concentrations in Anthropology and English, she has worked as a public school teacher, teaching English and Social Studies where she taught a large population of immigrant Russian children. Megan is overseeing outreach with the Seattle-based resettlement community.

Lovisa Inserra, Associate Producer/Art Director

Lovisa does graphic design and motion graphics for film and television.


SETTLING IN SEATTLE will be screened locally for World Refugee Day and then will be entered into relevant film festivals with a public television broadcast deal sought after.


  • "Stealing Food" by Paul Rubenstein/Bakshish, Four Fifths of the World/Vagrant Records of Seattle, WA
  • "Alhambra" by Paul Rubenstein/Bakshish, Yao's Question/Vagrant Records of Seattle, WA
  • "Unhazy" by Blue Faces, In the Days of the Lightbulb on the Wall/Vagrant Records of Seattle, WA
  • "You Can't Hide" by Maktub, Khronos
For more information about the incredible Seattle artists and record label who contributed music for this film, please visit the following websites:

Erik 4-A, Vagrant Records of Seattle, WA
Paul Rubenstein
Blue Faces