New Americans / Summer Program at Vassar College

This is part of our special feature on forced migration, Narration on the Move.
This is part of our campus spotlight on Vassar College.

Documentary filmmaker Jan Müller chronicled life during the “New Americans” Summer Program, interviewing the high school students with refugee and forced migrant backgrounds who came to Vassar College for two weeks in July 2019. He filmed at the site of the mural they painted with Joel Artista, co-founder of Artolution, and in their academic classes. In one course, which relied on graphic novels to approach the subject of narrating displacement, he taught a lesson on camera techniques and perspective and helped students film interviews with their peers. Newly trained in camerawork and narrative perspective, students interviewed each other about their experience of migration, hospitality, and the challenges of starting anew as adolescents in the United States. These student interviews, combined with footage of classroom, the mural, and the input of program administrators, form a story about the way Vassar College is rethinking access to higher education for forcibly displaced students.

Müller produced the film on the heels of a year-long film workshop at a high school in New York City, working exclusively with students who had migratory backgrounds. He stated, “When Maria Höhn approached me with this opportunity, I didn’t hesitate. I found this to be a deeply gratifying film making experience on many different levels. Particularly because young migrants take storytelling to another dimension, as their experience of a different, previous life adds extra sharpness and depth to their perception of the present and their expectations for the future.”

—Brittany Murray and Matthew Brill-Carlat for EuropeNow



Jan Müller is a Poughkeepsie-based filmmaker, who has lived a nomadic existence for some 20 years of his life. Migration has been a recurring theme in his work: Stray Tales (2012), Familiar Events (2019) and Ocho Mil Quinientos / Electric Generals (2019).


Published on October 29, 2019.


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