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Amber Fares opens the hood of “Speed Sisters” in conversations with Omaha audiences

Amber Fares opens the hood of Speed Sisters in conversations with Omaha audiences

Flying into Omaha was almost like coming home for me. I'm from Northern Alberta in Canada, and the landscape of Nebraska is very much like the Canadian prairies. Big beautiful skies, down-to-earth friendly people and lots of statues of buffalo. It was a welcome surprise.

Downtown Omaha celebrates its buffalo heritage

The program that Film Forward put together for us was really amazing. The focus for Speed Sisters was primarily on students and we visited such a diverse set of classes. It ranged from after school programs, to career development classes, to international relation classes and an artist workshop. Every class engaged with the film in a different way. The career development class were young filmmakers and were more interested in the process of making the film. Why I made the decisions I made. It was a real treat to open the hood of the film in this way and really get into the nitty gritty of it. It isn't something that the normal Q+A format allows for and it was fun for me to share my experience in that way. The audience at the screening at Creighton University were people who were more interested in what daily life in Palestine was like. While the students from the International Relations class were interested in seeing something beyond the headlines of what they typically see on the news.

Amber Fares in front of Girls, Inc.

I think for me, two screenings really stood out. The first was at an after school program called Girls Inc. We walked into a class room full of very boisterous 12 year olds having a pizza party. How better to watch a film than with a good slice of pepperoni? The projection wasn't the clearest and the sound was a bit fuzzy. It brought me back to film days during my own youth and I thought to myself - these girls are never going to sit down for 80 minutes and watch a subtitled film about a place few had even heard of. Especially not after a long day at school and a belly full of pizza! However, I was wrong. When we came back into the classroom when the film was over, the girls were waiting for me with their hands in the air. "Miss, we have some questions for you!" I barely got to the front of the room before they were firing them off. They were so curious about the Speed Sisters' lives and where they were living. We had a great discussion about what life was like in Palestine and how it was more similar than they thought to their own.

The other screening was also an after school program called Thrive. It's an after-school leadership program for migrant students in five high schools in Omaha. There were about 60 students, all from different countries. We snuck in for the last 15 minutes of the film and could hear them laughing and cheering during the final race scene. After the film, a student who was a refugee from Nepal came up to me and asked me if it was possible to show the film there. She felt that it would really give inspiration to young women there to follow their dreams. When I asked her what her dream was she said that she wanted to be an ESL teacher. That she wanted to help immigrants when they come to the US. She felt that because of her and her family's experience she would have a better understanding of what they would need and could help them acclimatize to life in the US.

This was really a reminder for me of the power of film to engage and inspire people from a wide range of ages and backgrounds and the importance of programs like Film Forward for bringing independent film and opportunities for meaningful discussions to audiences that may not readily have access.

Amber Fares connects with Thrive students

I'd also like to thank Film Streams for helping to set everything up. They run an amazing program out of Omaha that pushes to enhance the cultural environment in Omaha through film and discussions and makes it very accessible to students. I would say that 90% of the students that were in the audience had been to at least one screening at Film Streams.

Lastly, it was really a honour to be selected to participate in the program, especially along side a wonderful film like Tig by the amazing Kristina Goolsby. And a massive thank you to Meredith and Jackie for making it happen.