Zach Ingrasci ’12 and Chris Temple ’12 screen their new film 'Salam Neighbor'

By Bri Munoz '18

On Tuesday, February 2,  Zach Ingrasci ’12 and Chris Temple ‘12 paid their alma mater a visit to show current students and faculty what they’ve been up to since graduation. A summer research project in- between their sophomore and junior years gave them an experience of a lifetime and a documentary film called “Living on One.” The film followed the pair’s journey for eight weeks in Guatemala as they lived on a dollar a day to experience what they had only been able to read about in the classroom.

The success of that film allowed the CMC grads to pursue another documentary, this time on the other side of the world in Zaatari, a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan. The film is entitled “Salam Neighbor” and its promotion was the main reason for their visit. They spent the entire day on campus inspiring students who visited the refugee tent, attended one of their Athenaeum talks, or came to the evening screening of “Salam Neighbor.”

As soon as Zach and Chris arrived at around 10 a.m., they set up the refugee tent in the middle of north quad provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the same as those used in Zaatari. During the late morning, Zach and Chris were accessible to all who walked by, friendly and welcoming to anyone who wanted to know more about their projects.

Along with the refugee tent, the alumni brought virtual reality (VR) simulators with them for students to get the 360 ̊ experience of what it’s like to be situated in a refugee camp. Many students had never experienced VR before, and they described it as a dizzying, yet eye-opening experience.

At 11:45 a.m., Zach and Chris headed to their first event, a lunch talk at the Athenaeum. The two gave an engaging presentation about their unusual path after graduation. They certainly didn’t attend CMC with the intent of becoming filmmakers. However, inspired by professors and countless discussions of third world development, they took a leap of faith and headed to Guatemala. They’ve never looked back since, as the film project that was supposed to embody eight weeks, turned into a three-year journey of editing, producing, and touring the film around the country.

Their lunch talk was about this journey, about the uncertainties and risks involved in their career, and more importantly about the rewards it can reap. They get to wake up every day and truly enjoy what they do. When they’re up all night caught in a productive brainstorm, they hardly feel it fair to describe what they do as “work.”

After their talk, they returned to the refugee tent to sit down with students for casual conversation.. The filmmakers met with students in microfinance related clubs and human rights organizations on campus, discussing the social sector for a career path, the adventures of travel, and more.

“Chris really encouraged us to find a job in which we never stop learning,” said Isabella Romeo ’18. “It resonated pretty strongly with me, and I definitely hope to keep it in mind when I’m figuring out what I want to do after CMC.”

For a final presentation at the ATh, Zack and Chris went over the logistics of acquiring permission for the film, and described the hospitality offered by the community. They joked about how it was much more difficult convincing their parents than the United Nations that it was a safe endeavor. The mission of their film was of course to educate the world about the refugee strife, but more importantly, to bring to light the humanity in those displaced, as it certainly seems to be lost in the media’s portrayal of the situation.

“Salam Neighbor” was screen in McKenna Auditorium, immediately following their talk. The documentaries follows the personal stories of several refugees Zach and Chris had the pleasure of befriending. This theme of brotherhood, of an uncommon bond that transcends nationality, was extremely potent in the film. Audience members found the film incredibly powerful.