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Me, The Other, a locally produced documentary that tells the story of 12 students attending college in Washtenaw County, is returning to the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor on March 7. The diverse group featured in the film ranges from an African-American acting student from Flint who tells a personal heartbreaking story of the current water crisis in her community; a student from Mexico on the DACA program living in fear of deportation; a student from the storm-devastated island of Puerto Rico; a #metoo story of an orphaned immigrant from Cameroon; and a 65-year-old transgendered student who was homeless and alcohol and drug dependent but chose education over suicide.
Shidan Majidi, who works in New York theater, directed the film.
“The message of the film really is, I hope, that through otherness we can come to a sense of oneness and really understand that oneness is the depth of who we are as human beings,” Majidi said. “And in that place of the soul of the human spirit there is no difference between us. We all have the same color blood … as human beings we’re not labels. We really are made of the same stock. We’re love and light basically. We called it Me, The Other, hoping that through other people that society has stigmatized with all these issues … and we are so scared of, when you get to the heart of a human being and hear their stores you’ll see yourself in them.”
The idea for the film began when Majidi received a phone call from a friend of his on the faculty of the University of Michigan Dental School.
“It was in response to the bicentennial celebration and there was a need to do something theatrical to celebrate the diversity on the three of the local campuses,” said Majidi. “The three campuses were Eastern Michigan University, Washtenaw Community College and the University of Michigan. Because I work on Broadway, I work mainly in live theater. The time frame that they gave me to create something theatrical was way too short and I said there’s absolutely no way I can do this.”
But Majidi could not get the project out of his head.
“I thought about it and one day the idea of a documentary popped into my head and I thought why not empower local students by giving them the chance to audition for a documentary,” he said. “It would deal with social issues and diversity and it became really a storytelling exercise where we could show the film around these campuses as an educational tool to raise awareness.”
Majidi hastily scheduled auditions.
“The time was so limited that I really didn’t think anyone would show up,” Majidi said. “But 42 people came to audition and we had quite a range of amazing stories and individuals. Then out of the 42 we chose 12, which was super ambitious.”
Things moved quickly following the auditions
“And in that place of the soul of the human spirit there is no difference between us. We all have the same color blood … as human beings we’re not labels. We really are made of the same stock. We’re love and light basically.”
– Shidan Majidi, Me, The Other director
“Miraculously we were able to find a cinematographer and an editor and over 200 volunteers from the local community,” said Majidi. “From then on it was a race against time doing anything and everything we could to raise funds. We knew because of the urgency of the stories and the issues and the world that we live in, that there’s a window of opportunity for these stories to be relevant.
“For example, we had a #metoo story before the #metoo movement really became what it became,” Majidi continued. “DACA, we have a student from Mexico on DACA. So all of these things started coming up in the news and we had already covered them in our documentary so we felt this was a really important film and we needed money to make it bigger so we extended it by about 25 minutes.”
With a final cut coming in at about 90 minutes, the race was on to get the film released.
“We gave ourselves a deadline and the earliest opportunity that was offered to us at the Michigan Theater was Martin Luther King Day of all days, which was just unbelievable. We grabbed that day. The theater’s capacity is 1,750 and we had a staggering 1,638 people show up.”
Majidi is hoping for a similar crowd when Me, The Other returns to the Michigan Theater for a special screening March 7. With all that is going on in this country at this time, Majidi feels his film fits right in with the narrative sweeping the nation.
“Look at the times that we live in,” Majidi said. “There are movements popping up left, right and center. Finally the people, whose voice has either not been listened to or has been oppressed, they are finally finding a platform. What is going on right now in Parkland with these school kids is so profoundly important. It’s so inspirational. It’s a spiritual uprising. It’s a spiritual revolution. This film is another movement of the voices who have been oppressed for way too long.”
For more information on Me, The Other visit metheotherfilm.com.