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Produced by Ann O'Brien; directed by Martin Kinch; written by Joan MacLeod
Primedia Productions Ltd., 1992. VHS cassette, 44:56 min., $149.00
Distributed by Magic Lantern Communications, Unit #38, 775 Pacific Road, Oakville, Ont. L6L 6M4

Grades 11 and up/Ages 16 and up

Reviewed by Christine Jacobs.

Volume 21 Number 4
1993 September

This video of the Theatre Calgary stage production of Joan MacLeod's play is part of Confederation Life's "Stage on Screen" series. It features David Everhart as Salvadoran refugee Elias, Aaron Goettel as his sponsor, Sander, and Isabel Zatti as Callie, Sander's sister. The stage production was directed by Martin Kinch.

This is a moving and thought-provoking play. Sander and Callie live with their father, Owen, on an island near Vancouver. Owen fled to B.C. during the Vietnam War and has been living with his beliefs and doubts ever since; his wife has left him and returned to the United States. Owen's mother is visiting from Oregon. Callie is in university and Sander has just started college.

Sander is tossing about for something he feels will make his life worthwhile and impulsively decides to sponsor a Salvadoran refugee. He envisions someone who will be "his school project," who will accept gratefully what is given and eventually graduate to being a Canadian under Sander's tutelage. It is a shock when the refugee turns out to be a person, not a concept. Elias, in his early twenties, has lost most of his family and has been tortured; he has his own problems to resolve and his own life to live.

Elias's arrival triggers self-doubts, memories and conflicts among the members of Sander's family. Sander has difficulties accepting that he is not a central point in Elias's life. Callie first has difficulty accepting Elias, and then has an affair with him. Both Owen and his mother find parallels between Owen dodging the draft and Elias escaping from El Salvador, Elias, meanwhile, is trying to put his life back together, accepting what he must, coping with expectations, and taking comfort and hope where he can.

This is good drama, and an excellent discussion starter. The complexities of cultural expectations and conflicts and of family relationships are very evident. The fact that refugees are human beings, not projects with no personal history or loyalties, is often overlooked in the urge to help. This play humanizes the word "refugee," forcing the viewer to relate to Elias as a person.

Recommended for senior high collections for its realistic treatment of the social issues (refugee situations, multiculturalism, family relationships) and for its entertainment value.

Christine Jacobs (Montreal, Que.) is a freelance indexer who for the past seven years has indexed films and videos for Film/ Video Canadiana.
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