WHY A FILM?
As a nation primarily composed of immigrants, the United States has a long tradition as a beacon of hope for those seeking refuge from the horrors of war and terror, and persecution. Reflecting this ideal is a sonnet inscribed on the Statute of Liberty:
GIVE ME YOUR TIRED, YOUR POOR,
YOUR HUDDLED MASSES YEARNING TO BREATHE FREE,
SEND THESE, THE HOMELESS, TEMPEST-TOST TO ME
As policies about refugees continuing to shift, so has the moral conversation about human rights and immigration. With debates about the Syrian refugee crisis splashing across front pages, and rants about reprising the use of torture raging over the airwaves, this is the time for serious, considered discourse about how we, as a nation, define our humanity in an ever-changing, seemingly more violent world.
Transcendence counters what is readily available in the mainstream media by rejecting an all-too-often sensationalized, politicized or emotionally charged way of engaging viewers. Instead, the film asks how, if we believe in protecting the human rights of all people, can we turn away men, women and children—victims of terror—who are fleeing violence, torture and other human rights abuses? How can we turn a blind eye to the suffering of others who are seeking refuge upon our shores?
The myriad of responses to these questions reflect a discordant relationship to democratic ideals. In contradiction to our commitment to liberty and freedom, America has an inconsistent history of welcomingrefugees. And we have not only violated the Geneva Conventions but have backed dictators and regimes that commit crimes against humanity with impunity, thus reflecting a failure of leadership to end needless suffering.
On the other hand, the U.S. is home to 23 programs that help the victims of trauma regain their lives. The Bellevue Program for the Survivors of Torture (the unifying mechanism that connects the film's characters) is a shining example of America's ability to provide refuge to the "tempest-tost".
Underscoring the need to rehabilitate survivors, the U.N. Committee Against Torture emphasizes, “The need to restore and repair the harm suffered by a victim whose life situation, including dignity, health and self-sufficiency may never be fully recovered as a result of the pervasive effect of torture."
Transcendence provides rare, intimate access that reveals how The Survivor Program (which is partially funded by Congress) addresses this need by offering rehabilitation services that not only restores dignity and helps survivors re-engage in civil society, but also heals communities and instills social cohesion. What results is at turns heroic, even humorous, and ultimately, inspiring.