Utica:The Last Refuge

Director: Loch Phillipps

2021, 120min, NR


Utica: The Last Refuge opens with the Azeins, a refugee family of four from Sudan, arriving at Syracuse International Airport. After spending six years in a camp in Ethiopia, they have finally made it to the US, where they are welcomed by Abdelshakour, a fellow refugee from Sudan. An employee of Utica’s venerable refugee resettlement agency, he sees that they have few belongings so he gives them the winter coats he has brought with him. Nada is pregnant. They will soon be a family of five and need extra attention because they have no relatives in the area.

That the Azeins have arrived in the midst of unprecedented upheaval in US policies towards refugees adds a layer of additional tension to their story. The adjustments refugees, especially those from remote rural areas, have to make to survive here are considerable. The Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees (MVRCR) is regarded nationally as a model agency for how refugee resettlement is done, for how they guide Utica’s refugees into comfortable jobs and lives, but they are suddenly facing new stresses. Reduced incoming numbers means a reduced budget. If their ability to assist the Azeins is compromised, their journey here becomes that much more difficult.

John Zogby
Pollster, author, trend-spotter, thought leader & native Utican
“Everything in this film—the slices of everyday life, the intimacy—details a people and a community who found each other and together gained salvation. I am proud to say it is my community and I have never before seen it captured so perfectly.”