The term FROM AWAY is a part of the Maine vernacular. It is used by people who have lived in Maine for generations to describe transplants and outsiders. People who have been lifelong Mainers, born and raised in Maine, for multiple generations – they’re from here. And those who aren’t are from away. With the arrival of refugees and asylum-seekers from across the world, Maine has been forced to face difference on an unprecedented scale.
Last June, 2015, Maya Tepler, the director of the film, FROM AWAY, received a text message from her older sister Erika, saying:
“By the way, we have two new brothers.”
Maya’s parents, her father the child of Holocaust survivors, had opened up the family home to two Burundian asylum seekers, teenage brothers Franck and Jessy. In an instant, the family was at the center of this surprising – and controversial – new trend: Historically one of the whitest states in America, and one that prides itself on insularity, Maine has become aburgeoning safe harbor for immigrants and refugees from all over Africa and the Middle East. The film will follow the family in its first years together, redefining itself.
The Tepler family sounds like some kind of modern day DIFF’RENT STROKES, but this isn’t a storybook sitcom, and the transition hasn’t been seamless. FROM AWAY won’t shy away from complex and uncomfortable questions: What are the challenges in a racially and culturally integrated family? Who is deserving of charity? Who is deserving of safe harbor? Is it a human right, or is it something to be earned?
FROM AWAY is a story about what happens when the refugee crisis crosses the Atlantic and lands on your front doorstep. But it is also a story about religious and racial identity, liberal idealism, and unlearning racism. It is a story about how one family in rural Maine learns to find strength in their difference amidst a sea of homogeneity. FROM AWAY will challenge the audience to fully consider what it means to be American, what it means to start anew, what it means to be from away.