The Last Survivor makes its International Debut
For Justin Semahoro Kimenyerwa, a Congolese refugee and one of the four survivors featured in The Last Survivor, traveling to Israel has always been a dream. “It’s one of my best dreams,” Justin says.
That dream is about to become a reality. Tomorrow morning, Justin will fly to Jerusalem with director Michael Kleiman where they’ll meet up with director Michael Pertnoy for the film’s international premiere.
While it may be his first trip to Israel, Justin is no stranger to premieres. In January he attended the North American premiere of The Last Survivor in Miami. How did he respond to seeing himself on the big screen? “I felt like I had come a very long way,” he says. “It was amazing to see where I was and where I am now. That has really changed my life.”
“Life-changing” is one of many glowing adjectives people are using to describe The Last Survivor, which has won numerous awards and accolades on the festival circuit. Now, with its international premiere, the filmmakers are enjoying a homecoming of sorts. Israel is where their journey first began.
In 2008, Michael and Michael read about the influx of Darfuri refugees living in Israel. With nothing but an idea and a camera, they headed to Israel on a mission. Their investigative instincts paid off—in Tel Aviv, they developed friendships with a number of Darfuri refugees, including Adam Bashar. Adam would not only inspire the project; he would be the first survivor whose story unfolds onscreen.
Adam will be seeing the film in its entirety for the first time at the Jerusalem Film Festival. “I am really happy to see this great work,” he says. “It’s exciting to see the two Michaels produce the reality.” The two Michaels are excited, too. “We’ve been working on the project now for close to four years,” says Pertnoy. “It’s such a treat to be able to bring it back to some of the people who participated in the film—people who gave us their heart and their story.”
A number of other individuals featured in the documentary will also be making their way to the international premiere, among them Dr. Chaim Peri, director of Yemin Orde Youth Village, and members of the Darfuri Community in Israel. Other distinguished guests include Adam’s classmates from IDC University and a Canadian Member of Parliament.
Adam and Justin will sit beside each other on Friday next—two refugees from neighboring African nations who have never met in person. But if there’s one thing The Last Survivor does brilliantly, it’s underline the fact that we, as human beings, are more alike than we are different. These people’s stories could be our stories, which is precisely why we’re compelled to action. “Whatever Adam or Hedi or Jacqueline shared, it felt like they were talking on my behalf,” says Justin. “It seemed like they were saying things that I went through personally. I know how they think, because what happened to me is the same thing that happened to them.”
As Kleiman notes, “Genocide doesn’t reside in any one part of the world. We want to take the film to as many places as we can to get the conversation growing. Hopefully this is the beginning of a large international platform.”
Both screenings of The Last Survivor at the JFF are already sold out. Adam excitedly awaits Justin’s arrival, and Justin is packing his bags. “I am so excited,” he says. “So, so excited.”
And so are we.
The Last Survivor will be screening at the Jerusalem Film Festival at the following times: Sunday, July 11th @ 14:00 and Friday, July 16th @ 18:30.