By Suni Jo Roberts
“Me ‘The Other’” is a new documentary film co-directed by Shidan Majidi and Dino Tsaousis that offers one solution to the deep divisions we see in our society today: listen to each other’s stories, including our struggles which bind us together.
The documentary explores the lives of 12 students from Washtenaw County attending WCC, Eastern Michigan University and The University of Michigan who share the experience of feeling like an outcast, or someone “other” than the status quo.
“This film started as an idea between Shidan Maijidi and one of his friends who lived here in Ann Arbor who wanted to do something creative as a way of bringing people together,” said Amina Peters, who is doing public relations for the film because she felt drawn to the film’s premise. “Film is such a powerful way to bring an audience into somebody else’s experience.”
Majidi’s friend ended up being one of the producers for the film. Her name is Shahrzad Mirafzali and she currently lives in Ann Arbor.
Peters explained that the producers of this film decided that they wanted to focus on students in Washtenaw County because of the diversity here.
“They are people who are just sort of coming into their own in life, sort of like that moment where you are figuring out where you stand and how you navigate through the world,” said Peters.
WCC student Veronica Aimee Centeno-Cruz, 20, is featured in the film and the only castmember from WCC. She said she heard about the film at work because someone had listened to her story and thought she would be a good fit for the film. She auditioned and got the part.
“I thought it was a great opportunity to not only be apart of an awesome experience but make people aware of other human beings and how you can see yourself in someone else,” said Centeno-Cruz. Centeno-Cruz was born in Michigan but was raised by her family in Puerto Rico due to her mother’s health problems which dictated she stay near the University of Michigan hospital where she has received multiple liver transplants. Once her mother was healthy enough, Centeno-Cruz came back to Michigan as an elementary school student and later attended Huron High School in Ann Arbor.
All of the cast members featured in “Me, ‘The Other’” have stories of hardship that can have the effect of making them feel isolated in the community. Centeno-Cruz got to know the cast members and was able to break through that isolation.
“When you talk to a person you don’t really think about what someone has gone through and what someone may be going through currently,” said Centeno-Cruz on the cast members she worked alongside. “They are all very strong, all very supportive, they are not judgemental at all, they are just great people.”
Peters and Centeno-Cruz both hope this film gets people talking to each other in order to share their own stories of hardship as well as to listen to others.
“I’m hoping it brings people together as human beings,” said Centeno-Cruz. “Right now I feel like there is a lot of division when it comes to religion or race or politics, so I hope it will bring everyone to together as human beings and to see ourselves in other people and be able to be a family as a human race instead of looking at each other as a thing, like a race or religion.
“Me, ‘The Other'” will be showing at the Michigan Theater on Saturday, Oct. 21 at 2:00 p.m., and will be free and open to the public.