A directing duo is excited for the upcoming release of their first feature-length film Someone Like Me.
Filmmakers and couple Steve J. Adams who grew up in Fort St. James, and Sean Horlor of Vancouver spent 15 months capturing the parallel journeys of Drake, a gay asylum seeker from Uganda, and a circle of strangers from Vancouver’s queer community who are tasked with supporting his resettlement in Canada.
Horlor said it was back in 2015 when they made their first pitch to the National Film Board (NFB) when Donald Trump was seeking the American presidency and anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rhetoric ran high.
“There was a ton of online hate speech, and we were watching that story unfold and in the back of our minds we’d always been aware of Rainbow Refugee,” Horlor said of the Vancouver based organization that helps LGBTQ asylum seekers flee violence and persecution and build a new life in Canada.
“On one side, you had this hate movement, and on the other, we were aware of all of these organizations in Canada that were combating it.”
A total of eleven strangers, including a transgender lawyer, gay entrepreneur, bisexual drag queen and a queer medical student, came together to help Drake come to Canada from Uganda where he lived in constant fear of being murdered or persecuted because of his sexuality.
“When he came to Canada, he felt safe being queer; however his identity as a black gay man posed a problem, Adams said
“It’s something he talks about at length in the film and that was really hard for us to see because another part of your identity is being attacked basically.”
Adams grew up in Fort St James and said the ‘80s and ‘90s were a rough time and that it was challenging to be a queer kid in a small town in northern B.C. where there was no else to identify with.
“It was a tricky time trying to figuring out who I was and why I was different and why I felt different around people. It took a time for me to be comfortable with my queerness after I had left Fort St James and began to find other queer people.”
Adams and Horlor met at the gay bar PumpJack in Vancouver 11 years ago and began venturing into filmmaking shortly after.
They started filming their first feature-length documentary film, Someone Like Me, in July 2019.
Because production was brought to a halt in March 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Horlor and Adams purchased iPhones that were delivered to subjects of the film which they used to capture themselves for one week and answer questions written by Horlor and Adams.
The phones would then be sanitized with footage offloaded before being sent to another group of subjects.
“Because they had control over how they were being filmed it was so intimate,” Adams said.
Adams and Horlor both hope Someone Like Me will spark empathy and understanding for asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants who often take on a new set of challenges when they arrive in a new country.
They added you do not have to a member of the LGBTQ+ community to find commonalities within their film.
Horlor said when they first started filming, they were talking to the National Film Board who told them about friends who were sponsoring a Syrian family in Fort St. James. “So the idea of sponsoring is such a uniquely Canadian story,” he said.
“If you look at things like the global refugee crisis or the persecution of queer people around the world and you want to make a difference on these issues you can do it in Canada and you’d be surprised how many people in your community have already done this.”
Running at 80 minutes, Someone Like Me will have its world premiere virtually at Hot Docs 2021, with a free Q&A with Adams and Horlor on Saturday, May 8.
The film will also premiere at Vancouver’s DOXA Documentary Film Festival and be offered for streaming nationwide between April 29 to May 16.
“Ideally, if the pandemic winds down, there might be an opportunity next year to head on up to Fort St James with the film and let everybody take a watch,” Adams said, noting his mother still resides there.