Hard Truth, Levity, and Hope (2011) is a short documentary film that introduces the lives of refugee teens who have settled in Lowell, Massachusetts. An urban city, and the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution, Lowell has been a refuge for immigrants since its birth. At the time the film was produced, Lowell was receiving large populations of refugee families from camps in Nepal, Burma, Iraq, Somalia, Congo, Sudan, and various other African regions. Having faced incredible atrocities in their homelands, and disparaging conditions in refugee camps, they came to the United States seeking a new life, and a chance at peace and freedom.
The film was inspired by the experiences of executive producer Deb Fowler, who was an ELL teacher in the Lowell Public Schools from 2005 through 2015. Through her work with new immigrant and refugee students, she learned of their poignant stories that pervaded every aspect of their lives. The perseverance of their spirits through such painful human suffering astounded Deb. The students were bursting to tell their stories, and to be seen as human beings by the people around them who often saw them as nothing more than a burden on our society. This film follows the stories of six refugee teens who faced significant gaps in their schooling, and some learning English as a third, fourth, and sometimes even eighth language. We watch as they struggle to find their place in a world that is foreign to them, and ultimately succeed.
This zero-budget film was directed and edited by Connor Crosby, a junior student in 2011. Connor and Deb collaborated again on the production of Through Gay Eyes (2013), funded through a crowdsourcing campaign, during Connor's freshman year at university.