On December 9, 2021, the offices of Representative Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) and Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) co-hosted a virtual film screening of the Assyrian short film GRACE (2021) for Congressional staff. Inspired by true events, GRACE tells the story of an Assyrian father living in Mosul, Iraq who tries to protect his daughter from ISIS using the innocent game of hide-and-seek. Written in the Assyrian language, the 10-minute film touches on the various challenges faced by Assyrians in Iraq, allowing audiences to experience the same heartache of loss—not only of life, but of home.
Dozens of Congressional staff members attended the online event. Also in attendance were state-level officials from outside Washington, D.C. The screening was preceded by a panel discussion featuring film director Brian Patto and API Board Member Atour Sargon. Patto spoke on his inspiration for the film, the message he hopes audiences are left with after watching, and plans for a feature-length production.
In her remarks, Sargon emphasized the sustained impact of ISIS atrocities on marginalized groups: “ISIS captured the Nineveh Plain and Sinjar in Iraq more than seven years ago, and while that may feel like a long time ago now—Assyrians, Yazidis and other marginalized groups are still suffering from the lasting consequences, and in many cases remain unable to return home. Though the challenges they face no longer make the headlines, they continue to threaten their future in Iraq.”
Since launching, Grace has been selected by dozens of international film festivals, collecting prestigious nominations and awards including “Best Foreign Short”, “Best Director,” and recognition for its cast. Sargon said she hopes the Congressional screening will help center the human cost of the policy choices made in Washington, D.C., bring attention to the ongoing suffering of Assyrians and other minoritized groups, and uplift Assyrian voices as they continue to tell their own stories.