SSMF 2022: “Pause”


What does it mean to belong? What happens when belonging in one community conflicts with belonging in another? How does power operate in and through identity to demarcate who can belong in particular places, spaces and times? This panel joins together multimodal works that explore questions of belonging through dynamic storytelling practices and forms—from considerations of sanctuary and experiences of refuge to the dynamics and frictions of religion and family, and reflective examinations of “home.”

Moderated by Perry B. Johnson, University of Pennsylvania
Saturday, March 26, 3:00 PM — 4:20 PM Eastern

The Stories Project

Carrie Symons &
Leo Samuels Vosburgh
Michigan State University

The Stories Project: A Documentary Short takes place in a Midwestern U.S. city where over 15,000 former refugees now reside. The film tells the story of 11 young adult mentors from both refugee and non-(im)migrant backgrounds. Together, they draw upon their past and present lived experiences while teaching in a summer day camp for refugee-background youth to explore the question: How can we change the negative perception of (im)migrants and (im)migration in the United States? The film aims to address socio-political issues of pervasive xenophobia and monolingual ideologies in and out of schools.

Dr. Carrie Symons is an assistant professor of language and literacy in the Department of Teacher Education at Michigan State University, USA. With a background in the performing arts and formerly an elementary classroom teacher of 10 years in Colorado and California, Carrie is a teacher-educator, certified yoga instructor, and community-engaged scholar whose work explores voice, representation, and storytelling with multilingual, refugee-background youth in spaces for learning in and out of schools.

Leo Samuels Vosburgh holds a BA in Media and Information and a minor in Documentary Production (Michigan State University). Always willing to explore, he loves to use his technical knowledge with the camera to bring different realities to new audiences. Leo has a keen interest in elevating narratives of the past and present that positively inform the choices we make as individuals in the future. He puts this into practice daily as a Museum Development Associate at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan, USA. Leo cherishes building strong relationships. He believes that getting to know someone is a humanizing step we all have the power to take.

How do I tell this story without telling it? Reflections on Pause, Refusal, and Visual Storytelling

Aarushie Sharma
York University

Nishtha Sharma

This paper emerges out of a multimodal life-story project that revolves around my mother’s experiences and memories. It zooms into an episode in the making of this project when the author’s mother objected to a segment that was earlier imagined as being central to the film – her experience of growing up in a different religious sect before her marriage. Arguing that these details are only shared with those who understand the belief, she refused to share details of the sect on the film. Thinking along this episode that interrupted the project, the author engages with the methodological potential of pause and refusal, and examine the import of refusal for working with visual methods in particular.

Aarushie Sharma is a PhD candidate in Social Anthropology at York University. She earlier worked as Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Hindu College, University of Delhi. Her doctoral research focuses on the study of toilet politics and the infrastructure of sewage. Her other areas of interest include ethnographic film and multimodal ethnography.

Nishtha Sharma completed her undergraduate and postgraduate studies from Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, India, and moved to Delhi in 1988. She has a Sangeet Prabhakar (a degree in the field of music) in Tabla (a percussion instrument in Hindustani classical music). Though she doesn’t play the tabla as frequently now, she tries to attend musical recitals regularly and enjoys listening to music.

Alien Home

Sophie Huang
University of Pennsylvania

ALIEN HOME is an experimental film that follows the filmmaker’s family as they drive through the American Southwest in the summer of 2021. After a year of isolation, strife, and mourning, what does it mean to belong in this country? To be at home? To be together? In fact, the best way to watch this film is together—find a friend and put two screens side-by-side for the complete viewing experience. A single-screen version is also available.

If you would like to join in making this alien home feel less “alien” and more “home,” in life and on screen, please consider supporting the following organizations:
Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund:
Coalition for Asian Pacifics in Entertainment:
Gold House:

Sophie Huang is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania pursuing a dual degree in Cinema & Media Studies from the College of Arts & Sciences and Economics from the Wharton School. She is from Overland Park, KS. She hopes you enjoy her work.

Sanctuary Stories

Ariel Goodman

with Rosa Sabido, Laurel Smith, Juan Carlos Marin & Joel Dyer

The Sanctuary Stories Project is a multimedia storytelling collaboration led by Colorado’s immigrant sanctuary leaders. ​Created out of a desire to tell their stories in their own voices,​ the project offers a moving portrait of four women’s emotional and physical journeys from their home countries to the churches in which they currently are seeking refuge from unjust deportation orders. ​Through projections, audio narratives, original music compositions, and striking photography​ the women speak to their spiritual growth, their activism, and their perspectives on the system that now confines them.

Ariel Goodman is an award winning multimedia artist and investigative journalist based in Philadelphia. Most recently she worked as a Tow Fellow at The Marshall Project to create collaborative accountability journalism with communities impacted by the criminal justice system. Previously she managed youth media programs in Philly public schools. Ariel’s journalism has appeared in outlets such as ProPublica, The Associated Press, El Pais, Univision, and DocumentedNY. She has her masters degree in Documentary and Spanish language journalism from the Craig Newmark School of Journalism at CUNY. Ariel creates and teaches media as a tool for community members to understand themselves and each other, and a basis for collectively imagining, creating, and fighting for the world they want to live in.