Vivian Hua Unpacks Islamaphobia in ‘Searching Skies’

by Georgia McDade

In eight minutes, Vivian Hua — writer, filmmaker, and executive director of Northwest Film Forum — unwraps Islamophobia in her crowdfunded short film “Searching Skies.” A Christian family has invited a Syrian refugee family to share Christmas dinner. The couple’s college-age nephew does not welcome the guests. The refugee father, Hamza (Kal Maleh), and his wife Amira (Nour Bitar) — both real-life Syrian refugees — suffer the hostility of the young man.

The audience knows early the young man does not wish to attend the meal; it takes little time for his prejudice to betray him. How could the older hosts have known their much younger nephew would be so critical and ignorant of the guests? The student has no idea many Syrians are Christians, for instance; he assumes all are Muslims because of their appearance, language, and clothing. He detests refugees using American resources. He resents having salmon — served to meet the Syrian family’s dietary traditions — rather than his holiday ham as the main course.

Hua used the film to increase support for refugees. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported 867 hate crimes ten days after the presidential election. All acts are not reported and, therefore, are not recorded. Surely Donald Trump’s Islamophobia can reveal and accentuate that of others. His Muslim ban accounted for some of the expressions of hate.

Though it takes so little time to view Searching Skies, thoughtful viewers will most likely ponder what happens. Subjects such as refugee resettlement, immigration, wartime trauma, child welfare, and toxic masculinity are points to begin a discussion.

Based on a true story, the film fits perfectly with another of Hua’s many roles, organizer behind the Anti-Islamophobia initiative The Seventh Art Stand, “a rapid response initiative which utilizes film to bridge communities and create new inroads for civil rights discussion.”

“Searching Skies” premiered in conjunction with The Seventh Art Stand. Over 50 venues in more than 25 states showed anti-Islamophobia films followed by community discussions.

With the number of persons annually hurt and killed because of hate and discrimination, all of us should be willing to do whatever we can to stop friction and bring peace. Hatred, discrimination, and murder are always bad. All are blights on humanity. If we can see ourselves or someone we know in the film, and discuss what we see, we may be be able to prevent the hate that may lead to discrimination and possibly murder. “Searching Skies” is a good beginning point.


Featured Image: A still from Vivian Hua’s “Searching Skies.” (Courtesy Vivian Hua)