Going Back Home
Follow the five steps below to get the most out of your UnLonely Film Festival experience!
Step 1: Watch the film.
Peter Nhiany is a graduate student in Manchester, NH and a former “Lost Boy” of Sudan. Juggling two full-time caregiving jobs as well as work with a non-profit supporting Sudanese that he co-founded, he supports his wife and family back home and lives for his all-too-short visits back… He faces the distance and loneliness of his situation with focus, determination, grace, and gratitude.
About the FIlmmaker
Tim O’Donnell is an Emmy-nominated and award-winning documentary filmmaker whose work has been featured on ESPN, ABC, and PBS. He has won IndieWire’s “Project of the Month,” and worked with the Tribeca Film Institute and SnagFilms. He is based in Waltham, Massachusetts.
Did you set out to explore loneliness in your film and if so, what prompted this focus?
In Going Back Home we focused our story on Peter Nhiany, a Lost Boy of Sudan, and his journey in going back to his homeland to visit his wife and children. He found ways of connecting with other refugees socially through school and programs.
Alternately, did you recognize a theme of loneliness as your project developed?
Isolation is a big issue among veterans in today’s climate. 0.45% of Americans have served which makes it challenging for veterans to connect, which is an important piece of transitioning successfully.
Did any of your viewers give you feedback that reflected this aspect of your film?
Yes, a lot of the feedback has been very positive on giving insight into how to connect after trauma and successful ways of using coping devices.
What do you hope UnLonely Film Festival audiences, trying to make sense of loneliness and isolation and navigate a path forward, take from your film?
We hope audiences get insight into the lives of veterans and refugees and create empathy and understand. We hope these films are conduits into their worlds and create connections with various communities.
Any other information of backstory you want to share about your film?
Both films were collaborative in nature, as we gave the subjects cameras and recording devices to use as diary journals. We found this a great way for us (the filmmaking team) to better understand our subjects and their communities.
Step 2: Explore these things after watching the film.
- Do you have a place that draws you back? Is it because of family or for other reasons? What do you gain when you return? What do you think Peter in the film gains from returning to South Sudan?
- What did you think of Peter’s working life? For whom or what would you work 7 days a week for 6 months?
- Considering Peter’s relationship to the snow, is there something that was at one time completely new and strange to you, but that you’ve come to love and appreciate?
- In the film, Peter talks about the strength one gains from spending so much time by oneself. Take 10 minutes to free write about what that means to you. Do you need more time alone? Do you dread time alone? What kind of strengths do you think Peter was thinking about? Do you have those strengths–why or why not?
- What does your childhood home look like in your memory? Draw the shape of the home on a piece of cardboard, including all of the doors and windows. Make it large enough so you can easily cut out the windows and doors, but consider leaving the doors partially attached so that they can open and close. Now consider the rooms behind each of the windows and doors–what was the room’s color, or what was the color of the feeling you got from that room? Select from a small sampler packet of multi-colored vellum or tissue paper the color that is most fitting for each room, and then tape the translucent paper to the other side of the cardboard. Once completed for all doors and windows, draw additional details to make the home’s appearance more detailed and authentic. Now put the cardboard in front of a light or several lights to animate the home from your memory.
- In the film, Peter says that “even when we are capable we still need somebody to be there for us…not everything we can do for ourselves.” What are all of the things–big and small–that you need other people to do for you? Make a list of the things you need either as a wishlist reminder or as a way to kick-start a thank-you writing campaign to the people in your life for helping you.
Our Try This page has even more creative expression inspiration!
Step 3: Join in the conversation about the film.
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