Staying connected

Austin Phillips

A new documentary focusing on immigrant communities in Grand Rapids and how they use media and communication technologies to stay connected with their heritage countries will be screened on Oct. 13 at 6 p.m. in the Seidman College of Business on Grand Valley State University’s Pew Campus.

The documentary, “From Somewhere Else,” offers glimpses of immigrant life and how they maintain everyday connection with their heritage country through interviews with members of communities in West Michigan including Bosnians, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian and Latin American. The film also offers expert opinions from scholars in the fields of media, culture and communication.

“Through heritage media and everyday use of communication technologies, immigrant communities maintain links to their home country, their friends and family, their culture,” said GVSU professor Vandana Magal, one of the producers of the film.

With the evolution of media and technology, global communication has become easier. New applications – such as Skype – for cell phones, tablets and computers allow immigrants to maintain constant contact with their origin countries. The documentary will touch on the benefits of using these applications to communicate on a more global level.

“The contemporary immigrant experience is different now, as it is easier to maintain daily connection with friends and relatives back home,” Magal said. “This linkage has enabled a hyphenated identity among immigrants. So now one tends to say, ‘I am Chinese-American, or Bosnian-American or Indian-American’ and so on. The interviews are rich and insightful and offer a view into life of a range of immigrant communities in the city of Grand Rapids.”

Magal helped make the film as a possible teaching text for international and intercultural communication and hopes that it will be a useful text in the areas related to media, culture and society.

“I thought this would be a good way to bring global communication to the forefront of our understanding, showing this is what is happening, and the immigrant experience in modern America,” she said.

The film’s screening will be followed by an open discussion with Magal and Keith Oppenheim, a former GVSU faculty member and co-producer of the film. All faculty, staff and students are welcome to attend this free event.