Ferolyn Angell making film about refugee struggles

In 2015, Ferolyn Angell of Hancock, first began a journey through her mother’s history. That is when she first visited her mother’s home town of Schwedt in Germany. She is currently finishing up a project that will take her back to Germany. The project is a film that will depict the challenges faced by immigrants leaving their country and coming to the United States and other parts of the world. Many of these moves are made due to threats or conditions that force people to make the difficult decision to leave their homes. Ferolyn did an initial film called ‘In The Shadow’  in 2017 that can be viewed in the Morris Public Library. This film was primarily about her mother’s family and their experience with Nazi Germany. 

After completing that film she decided to do another one portraying  the struggles of all refugees. She called this “What Becomes Treasure.” Since her mother was an immigrant to the United States, she has a lot of background to begin and carry out the project. Therefore she started out by following up on the path her mother  took and along the way she has found many others who traveled similar paths. 

Ferolyn’s mother, Dorothea Oppenheimer Angell, was forced from  her home during the Holocaust. Most of her siblings were also able to reach safety, however, her father and one sister did not. She was homeless when arriving in Sweden where she got help from the Swedish Lutheran Mission. After seven years in Sweden, she  traveled to California to study Chinese so that she could be a missionary. Her intent to only stay for a short time. However, that is where she met Ferolyn’s father, Russell Angell, and she remained in the United States.

Ferolyn wanted to share not just her mother’s story but the story of all refugees forced from their homes. She is a dance teacher so she wanted to use dance theater to express things that are hard to say with words alone. The project is made possible by a grant from the University of Minnesota Retirees Association and the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Lake Region Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Ars and Cultural Heritage Fund.

When Ferolyn traveled to Germany in 2018, she met several people.  One of them was Thomas Maucher who works at an arts school in Schwedt and Elizabeth Birmingham, an old friend in dance who lives in Berlin. These conversations have resulted in many exchanges of information and ideas. This led to a collaboration between West  Central Minnesota and Brandenburg, Germany called crossings….moves

When Ferolyn returned to the states, she continued to communicate  with her German friends which was often difficult due to the time difference and language barrier. Covid also put a hold on a great deal of the work on the film. The project was originally going to start in 2019. 

With the decision to make the dance about refugees from all countries,  she began reaching out to refugees in this area who will talk to her about their flight from places like Somalia, Ukraine, South East Asia, and even Mexico. She has found a few and has been holding workshops to learn about their struggles. Ferolyn will then  be putting these struggles into dance form. She explained that the film will have some narration but most will be in music and movement.

For example, there is a sequence about suitcases. It will show  the difficulty in selecting things to put in a suitcase, pulling open drawers and throwing items aside. There will be a dance sequence with a refugee sitting on a bench, in limbo, not knowing where or what to do next. Another sequence will be set in a living  room and another in an outdoor area without walls. The cast members will be dancing to children’s games. They will be showing how some refugees, new to a school, were always selected last for games. This project hopes to show how easy it could be to help refugees  be included and feel welcome. Ferolyn has seven core dancers and more included in some scenes. 

There was a workshop in Fergus Falls on May 31 and one will be  held in Morris on June 7th at 6:30 pm in the Morris Public Library. These workshops are about the crossings….moves dance/theater project. It will provide opportunities to share experiences, explore connections and engage in theater games. She is hoping to invite more people who have any type of experience with refugees or are a refugee, to attend  these workshops to share their experiences and also to bring something they treasure from their country. The film will be a lot about the memories of refugees and the difficult decisions they had to make. 

By working in collaboration with German volunteers, Ferolyn has  had to learn a lot about technology and some of the differences between countries. The film clips from Germany will need to be adjusted to an American format. She has been using an app called Whatsapp that helps with the exchange. 

Ferolyn will be returning to Germany on June 12 and do additional  filming and have conversations with more people, sharing ideas. She will be back in the United States on July 17 and work diligently on final edits for the film. She is hoping to have it ready in September so watch for more information about where you can  see the film.