WNY Refugee Film Festival

The Letter

The letter: An american town and the "somali invasion"


The Letter: An American Town and The "Somali Invasion”

Directed by Syrian-American director Ziad H. Hamzeh, this searing documentary was made in 2003, but could not be more timely and urgent in our current political environment – and disturbingly familiar. Called by Variety “an especially dramatic work of polemical reportage on racism in America,” this riveting documentary chronicles the arrival of 1,100 newly arrived Somali refugees in the overwhelmingly white town of Lewiston in Maine, the whitest state in the U.S. The town became infamous for the public letter penned by the mayor telling Somalis to stop coming to the town, which made international headlines. The climax of the film is a harrowing rally held by out-of-town neo-Nazi white supremacists against the newcomers and a counter-demonstration of nearly 4,000 of its residents supporting ethnic and cultural diversity. Sadly, a majority of this largely working-class part of the state favored Trump in 2016 and still hold onto stereotypes and anti-refugee myths, even while some residents now acknowledge that refugees helped revitalize their dying town.


A documentary thrill ride…moves breathlessly as a Hollywood thriller, only it’s much more frightening because it’s true.
— New York Post
…a thoughtful, historically grounded, and utterly absorbing look at a quintessential American experience.
— LA Weekly
Critics Pick!
— New York Magazine

Website: https://www.arabfilm.com/item/300/

Director: Ziad H. Hamzeh

Running Time: 76 min.

Languages: English, Arabic, Somali

Subtitles: English

Country: USA

Production/Distribution Company: Arab Film Distribution