November 30 – Dough
The second film screening of the New View Film Series took place on November 30 and the film shown was Dough. Unlike the other films in this series, Dough is a comedy, and it is about an old Jewish baker named Nat struggling to keep his business afloat until he decides to take in a young immigrant man as an apprentice. The apprentice, Ayyash, drops cannabis in the dough and sends the shops sales sky high.
Ayyash is a young man who fled the Darfur region with his mother and together live in harsh conditions in a London neighborhood. Desperate to live in better conditions, Ayyash begins seeking work with the local drug dealer, while his mom hoping for a better path for her son successfully advocates a baking job with Nat. Dough does a good job in showing the hardships of immigrants and the possibility of growing relationships between unlikely pairs, but could have been further to break through the stereotypes that we still see in the film.
The antagonist in the movie, Sam Cotton, opens up a grocery store next to the bakery, and in an attempt to buy out Nat’s bakery, says that Nat has already fulfilled the immigrant dream and should therefore save himself the trouble by selling his business. Nat angrily corrects Cotton by saying that his father and grandfather were also from the London suburbs. Nat is not an immigrant himself, but generations before him had immigrated to the London area. Due to not experiencing the hardships of immigration, Nat treats Ayyash like he is up to no good and says that the neighborhood is going to the dogs. It takes Nat time to get to know Ayyash and understand the trials that he’s been through to get to where he is.
Throughout the film, the relationship between Nat and Ayyash evolves from two people with nothing in common into a somewhat father-son like relationship in which they share their devout religiousness and skill in baking kosher/halal. The relationship between Nat and Ayyash hits a turning point when Nat tells his son that Ayyash is the only one who cares about the family business. Overall, the film comically highlights common tensions between ethnic and religious stereotypes, but leaves the audience wanting more substance relating to racial and generational divides.
This lack of sympathy for immigrants is something that audience members say they see in their own communities. Although most of us had grandparents or great-grandparents that immigrated here at some point, we view new immigrants as outsiders. America has been a nation of immigrants since it has been founded but we often forget that. With each new wave of immigrants, like the Irish, German, Chinese, Japanese, and more, we go through a period of fear and rejection. It takes too much time to break down the distinction between the “us” and “them”.
The discussion that followed the film explored various topics, including how a comedy can enhance or detract from the message, the similarities between the London community that Dough is set in and our own communities here, and the concept of old versus new immigrants. Most of the audience thought that a comedy could help engage people who normally would not be interested in learning about refugees and their struggles. Comedy can mask or distract from the overall message in a way that a documentary cannot. In the end, the message is inescapable and may have succeeded in attracting an audience who otherwise may have not been as willing to watch a movie about refugees.
A New View Film Series is presented and facilitated by the Desmond Tutu Center, Center for Interfaith Cooperation, and the Center for Faith and Vocation. Each of us has a unique view through which we see the world. Shaped by our experiences, culture, and familial identity, this view forms our beliefs, values, and way of life. A New View Film Series journeys outside everyday life to explore new worldviews through the screening of six films. Each screening is followed by a discussion with the audience.