Sudanese refugee Mahasin Tia couldn’t hold her tears Friday night as she watched the documentary “With Open Eyes” in the Tivoli Theatre and thought about her family in the war-torn African country.
“For me it’s so sad (to watch it),” Mrs. Tia said after the screening. “The war is still there. It’s not about religion, it’s just bad government, political.”
“With Open Eyes,” is a feature documentary that provides a look at the crisis in Sudan, a conflict that has left 2.5 million people dead and 6 million displaced since it began 23 years ago.
A team of five Americans — J. Frank Harrison III, chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated in Charlotte, N.C.; his daughter Caroline and son James Harrison; pastor Charles Mack, from Charlotte; and country singer Daron Norwood — made the 14-day journey to listen to the stories of the Sudanese people and learn how they could help.
Their goal, Mr. Harrison said, was to gain understanding of the real situation in the war-torn country, and to document the reality of what they uncovered and experienced.
“It’s critical that America comes to the rescue. ... It’s a call for Americans to step up,” Mr. Harrison said before the screening.
Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., introduced the film and said there was no humanitarian crisis in the world greater than Sudan’s.
“In Congress, we’re trying our best to get the attention to these issues in the Sudan. We have big problems in our country, but this puts in perspective what big problems really are,” he told a group of about 300 attendees at the screening.
“Before it was a lot worst,” Mrs. Tia said of the current situation in Sudan. “I remembered many years ago in Sudan, my childhood (before the war).”
Through their journey, the group visited several villages in southern Sudan, including a hospital in Lui that served between 3 million and 4 million patients; the Nuba Mountains, where Mrs. Tia is originally from; and a refugee camp in Darfur.
Mrs. Tia resettled with her three children and husband in Chattanooga through Bridge Refugee and Sponsorship Services three years ago from a refugee camp in Egypt.
She said she now wants to work and study hard to perhaps go back to Sudan to help the people.
Miss Harrison said the journey had touched her in a way she can’t describe.
“Those people touched me beyond anything I could’ve imagined or dreamed. It was just overwhelming, the joy, the encouragement, everything, it’s indescribable how incredible and what a big impact it had on my life,” the 25-year-old said.
The documentary was first shown in Charlotte, N.C., last month and will continue to be presented in various cities around the country, hoping to bring relief, hope and change to the people of Sudan.
“Once we learned what was really taking place, we all burned with the same passion: this story has to get out, people have to hear it because something can be done about it,” said producer and director Steve Riach.