Traumatized Middle Eastern and African teen refugees are guided through a program of healing by devoted educators at a unique St. Louis public school for refugees only.
Directed by Lori Miller
Director of Photography: Brian O'Connell
Editor: David Beerman
Music: Tom Howe, Mike Reed
Executive Producers: Kirt Eftekhar, Peter Tao
Co-Producer: Brian O'Connell
A 31 Films Production
[Note: Community screenings of DAY ONE can be booked at Bullfrog Communities.]
"The humanity of the students and teachers shines from the screen and renews our faith in the promise of America." Jorge Riopedre, President, Casa De Salud
DAY ONE follows a group of teenage refugees from war-torn countries who are enrolled at a unique public school for refugees and immigrants-only in St. Louis, MO, where they are guided through an inspirational program of education, healing and trauma intervention by devoted educators, some of whom have chosen to relocate to the inner city to support their students.
Over the course of a year, we watch the kids progress through layers of grief and loss as they attend school, forge new friendships, and prepare to be mainstreamed into local public high schools. Their triumphs and tribulations all unfold with St. Louis as the backdrop: a rust-belt city that has taken the bold step of welcoming immigrants as a solution for their growing socio-economic problems.
Grade Level: 6 - 12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2019
Copyright Date: 2019
DVD ISBN: 1-948745-30-5
"This is a truly inspiring film, with lessons for all of us - not only about what kind of society we can be but also about how we can and should guide and instruct students. It is a story of resilience and hope, told with warmth and compassion. A must-see for schools, libraries, civic organizations, as well as school boards and other elected officials."
David J. Harris, Managing Director, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, Harvard Law School
"A film everyone should see...Reveals the incredible courage and determination these young people have with the difficult challenge of learning to navigate in a new school environment and a new culture. At our school, the personal histories and the personal triumphs of our first generation students are too often invisible. Day One renders them visible."
Brian Jennings, English Teacher, Bosnian Studies, Affton School District
"Day One humanizes the modern national discussion of refugees coming to the United States. We see the trial and tribulations of refugees, with the help of dedicated educators, adjusting to life in the heartland of the United States. The film is a heartwarming antidote to the poisonous attacks on refugees and immigrants. As the newcomers adjust to life in St. Louis, they inspire the community that they join."
Kevin R. Johnson, Dean, UC Davis School of Law, Co-Editor, ImmigrationProf Blog, Co-Author, Opening the Floodgates? Why America Needs to Rethink Its Border and Immigration Laws
"Day One is proof that when a community comes together to educate, empower, and support our most vulnerable, then we become the best we can be. Thank you for this glimpse into a journey of struggle, hope, and perseverance for both the students and educators."
Susan Werremeyer, Community Advocate, Welcome Neighbor St. Louis
"An excellent tool to raise awareness and provide insight into the tumultuous first years of a refugee's placement in the U.S. By honing in on education, the film acquaints audience members with the unique perspectives of refugee children and school administrators, and it highlights the dedication and perseverance of both parties which facilitates the successful integration of newly arrived immigrants. Day One is a prime example of storytelling as education, outreach, activism and advocacy and it is a wonderful film to promote understanding and tolerance."
Ashley Faye, Development Director, Refugee Services of Texas
"Day One offers an insightful and moving look at the difficult journey refugees take in navigating the US educational system. This wonderful documentary takes us on an emotional roller-coaster ride with the new refugees as they sift through the excitement, grief and socioeconomic challenges of coming to a new land. Surrounded by hardworking and selfless individuals who provide a safe environment for learning and growth, the young refugees get a chance to start over and rebuild their shattered lives. This timely film provides an excellent springboard for classroom discussion; it allows students to see the world through the eyes of refugees and ask critical questions about our responsibilities as Americans to our fellow humans and migrants."
Joshua Landis, Director, Center of Middle East Studies and Arabic Flagship Program, University of Oklahoma
"The United States is at its best when it welcomes those who have been displaced by violence and strife, and St. Louis exemplifies this spirit in Day One, creating a space for young refugees to learn and heal. The humanity of the students and teachers shines from the screen and renews our faith in the promise of America."
Jorge Riopedre, President, Casa De Salud
"Amazing...It was eye opening to see the lives of refugees in St. Louis, and learn about how current policies are affecting those lives. It was the first film I have watched where the audience immediately stood up to see how they could help, and hopefully it will inspire action in many communities to come."
Matthew Padgett, Student, Washington University in St. Louis
"A film for all. The film educates the community and teaches the audience the importance of a community, the importance of diversity and the importance of working together. Together we can do amazing things and build a better future. The film creates awareness of various issues in many fields that may affect educators, humanitarians, advocates and mental health advocates...Day One was not only a heartfelt film but funny and educational."
Itzel Iñiguez, Global Experiential Learning, University of Arizona
"As a physician who has had the opportunity to take care of refugee children, this inspiring documentary provides a vivid, moving and heartwarming story on the struggles and successes of this group of children. It's an exceptionally important film as it depicts a group of dedicated members of a school and community providing numerous educational and social opportunities to these children who are eager to be part of this country."
Dr. Blakeslee Noyes, MD, Professor and Interim Chair of Pediatrics, Saint Louis University, Director of Pulmonology, SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center
"An amazing film that shows how lives can be impacted to overcome trauma and tragic starts to life by compassionate educators and people. Shows the good in humanity at several levels."
Scott E. Walker, President and CEO, Kingdom House
"Day One remind[s] me of the power of community and solidarity, especially as we strive to be of service to one another...[It] narrates and weaves together the hopes, challenges, aspirations, and social-cultural complexities of our immigrant and refugee sisters and brothers. The movie left me feeling grateful and hopeful."
Dr. F. Javier Orozco, OFS, PhD, Executive Director, Human Dignity and Intercultural Affairs, Archdiocese of St. Louis
"Day One brings humanity back into the focus. You will be inspired by a story about newcomers through the eyes of children, their families, and their support systems in a city that (like many metropolitan areas) has declined over the past decades, trying to find its way back through welcoming immigration and other strategies. Day One encourages all Americans to remember how they got here and to investigate their own American lineage and discover that their ancestors' story was not unlike the modern refugee story. Day One is step one to inspiration and hope that cities like St. Louis can and must create a better place for all."
Al Li, President, Asian American Chamber of Commerce of St. Louis
"Day One reminded me of my own adjustment as a young immigrant in the United States and the challenges my own family faced...By coming together and working together we can and do make a difference...I believe that our city and region becomes stronger when our community is diverse and inclusive."
Gabriela Ramírez-Arellano, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan St. Louis
"This film reminds us of the beginning hardships and struggles of being immigrants in this country...Their stories inspire us to be appreciative for our fortunate life and to be supportive for the struggling new refugees and new immigrants in this country."
Lucy Burns, President, OCA St. Louis (An Asian American Advocacy Group)
"A remarkable view of what a welcoming community does to serve the children of refugee and immigrant families. The dedication of the teachers, the vulnerability of the students, and the predicament of their young lives is so poignantly captured...It is a film that should be widely shared, especially now when fear of the 'Other' seems magnified throughout the country."
Dr. Frances Levine, President and CEO, Missouri Historical Society
"Educative and inspiring. [I hope] the message will reach every household in America to enlighten people of the story behind refugees."
Geoffrey Soyiantet, President and Executive Director, Vitendo 4 Africa
"The film would seem to suggest that 'our nation's moral moment is upon us.' Do we have the capacity to fiercely love in the way that honors the Beloved Community that Dr. Martin Luther King so vividly envisioned from his mountaintop? Day One answers that question and many others."
Brian W. Thomas, Assistant Head of School, Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School
"Day One contains life lessons that everyone can relate to at some level, and as an educator of foreign languages, the cultural connections and stories that are told weave a tapestry of human experience that is accessible and interesting to my students. They understand and value their own heritage better by glimpsing through the lens of the brave refugees in the film."
Patrick Huewe, Chair of World Languages, Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School
"A very powerful film. It is beautiful and yet challenging. It clearly illustrates the diversity of backgrounds in St. Louis and the complexities this richness gives our educational system. I think it will be well received by all age audiences and especially college students."
Edward Macias, Provost Emeritus, Washington University in St. Louis
"I am empowered and compelled by this movie to continue to advocate for equity in education for refugee students. It was such an honor to be a part of this phenomenal movie."
Donnie Harris, Former Principal NCNAA, Director of Higher Education Consortium TRIO Educational Talent Search
"A powerful learning experience for our school community...The film refreshed our understanding of the power of schools to make a difference in students' lives. [Day One] encourages generosity and compassion for refugees at a time when some of our leaders stoke self-interest and fear."
Frank Kovarik, English Department Chair, Director of Equity and Inclusion, St. Louis University High School
"A remarkable documentary. It should be viewed by all school districts in the country...Thank you for your work in helping people understand the English learners, not only in the in the city of St. Louis, but all students coming to a new country. Great work!"
Julie Hahn, 2018 Counselor Advocate/Administrator of the Year, Ritenour School District
"Viewing Day One was both awe-inspiring and challenging...I am in awe of the brave students attending Nahed Chapman New American Academy, many of whom are simultaneously learning a new language and culture while also dealing with their traumatic past experiences. I am challenged to more intentionally teach my students about the importance of empathy and compassion, as well as to show them all that we have to learn from the diverse immigrant community in our own city."
Christy Keating, Spanish Teacher, Parkway Central High School
|Reduced rates for activist and grassroots groups. Please inquire.
DVD includes SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and scene selection.
Host a community screening
The Film's Website
Awards and Festivals
Best Documentary Feature, Culver City Film Festival
Best English Language Feature, Davis Int.l Film Festival
St. Louis International Film Festival
Newport Beach Film Festival
Los Angeles Womens DocFest
Milwaukee Film Festival
Port Townsend Film Festival
New Haven Documentary Film Festival
Portland International Kids' Film Festival
Esalen Inspirational Film Festival
All Write Festival
Middle Eastern Studies
Migration and Refugees
In his tiny, one-room, after hours, free school in Brooklyn, Stephen Haff teaches forty Latinx kids reading, creative writing and Latin.
The Storytelling Class
An after-school storytelling project in a diverse, but divided, city school breaks cultural boundaries and creates community.
This Is Home
Sundance award-winner puts a human face on the global refugee crisis by providing an intimate portrait of four Syrian refugee families arriving in the US and struggling to find their footing.
East of Salinas
José is an excellent student with a bright future except that he is undocumented, the child of migrant farm laborers in California's Salinas Valley.
Rain in a Dry Land
Two Somali Bantu families leave behind a legacy of slavery in Africa and find new homes in urban America.
Refugees, asylees and caregivers share their stories to help professionals and volunteers understand the needs of the more than a million survivors of torture rebuilding lives in the US.
A Great Wonder
Documents the difficult transition of three of the "Lost Boys and Girls" of Sudan to life as immigrants in Seattle, WA.
Examines the effects of hate speech and bigotry on the lives of Muslim-Americans.
The Tree that Remembers
Extraordinary film explores the lives of Iranian refugees who cannot escape painful memories.
Which Way Home
The personal side of immigration as child migrants from Mexico and Central America risk everything to make it to the US riding atop freight trains.
... more Reviews
"The City of St. Louis has a long and strong history of welcoming immigrants and refugees. Because of this, it has strengthened the diversity and richness of our city and community, both culturally and economically. Day One illustrates how St. Louis has and will continue to embrace those who come to our city to seek refuge and find a new life. It also shows how our community of institutions and individuals will be there to address the challenges, to support them and to be welcoming. We hope other cities and communities will be able to view Day One and empathize with the unique struggles some of our neighbors face on a daily basis."
Mayor Lyda Krewson, City of St. Louis
"Day One inspires us to be welcoming to newcomers...All communities that aspire to grow through diversity can learn from this documentary."
Betsy Cohen, Executive Director, St. Louis Mosaic Project
"I thought immediately about the impact and new lens views that my undergraduate nursing students would have if I used the film in my Population Health course. The messaging on how to approach all persons in a trauma...would be an enormous lesson in planning and executing health literacy programs in diverse communities. The film also brought to life the extraordinary strength and resilience of the human spirit that cannot be found in a text book."
Dr. Kathleen Thimsen, Assistant Professor, Goldfarb School of Nursing, Barnes Jewish College
"Impactful...Tells a much-needed and important story especially now, during this time of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric. The school and children are located in St. Louis, Missouri, but their stories are relevant in Minneapolis, Boston, and anywhere else that refugees are resettling."
Anna E. Crosslin, President and CEO, International Institute of St. Louis
"Day One does a great job capturing the struggles faced by many young students who have been resettled in the United States - language barrier, educational access, coping with trauma, overcoming systemic obstacles, and searching for a sense of belonging. The film not only discusses the realities of the education system in Saint Louis but is a fantastic educational opportunity for all those in the audience."
Shannon Elder, Development Manager, GirlForward (Austin)
"The stories told are inspirational and even, at the end, triumphant. We see friendships made, school lessons learned - and past traumas overcome...You can't help but be inspired by Day One. It's a story of truly good people doing truly good work."
Daniel Neman, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"The audience for the screening I attended was the more diverse in race and age than other films I attended. The film offered insight into a lesser known St. Louis community while treating its members with respect and individuality."
Christy Gray, Executive Director, Whitaker Foundation
"Day One not only takes us along on their educational journey; it offers a glimpse into the various conflicts across the globe that have caused their forced migration and gives us insights into their dedicated teachers' lives as well as St. Louis' class dynamics and racial history. Perfect for courses on forced migration and refugee resettlement as well as communities interested in learning about those issues, the film fills in important gaps in our general knowledge...This is a beautiful and engrossing film that covers so much without losing its focus."
Dr. Diya Abdo, Associate Professor of English, Guilford College, Founder/Director, Every Campus A Refuge
"Day One brings us the nuanced human stories behind the broad category of 'refugees' and shows specifically how schools can provide a 'soft landing for refugees.' At a time when harsh policies and harsher rhetoric have halved the numbers of refugees finding homes in the U.S., this important film gives credence to the idea that schools can indeed set refugee children up to thrive in their new home country."
Deborah Cunningham, Senior Program Director, Primary Source
"The narrative feels like a soft quilt, with pieces collected from fragments of war-torn lives, new-found friendships, and brave efforts to turn deficits into assets from refugee camps to a newcomers' school in St. Louis, MO. This is a truly multi-layered collage of humanity against a hard backdrop of desperate immigration policies, bigotry and violence. The film highlights the hopes and fears shared by teachers and students in a transition high school in inner-city America as they re-write the present while untangling the threads of the past and the uncertainties of the future of young refugees. This film is a looked-for resource for educators trying to make sense of the dichotomies of nationalism and globalism within their own politically divided neighborhoods."
Dr. Flavia Ramos-Mattoussi, Senior Research Associate, Learning Systems Institute, Florida State University