September 2-26, 2022


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Refuge is a story about fear and love in the American South. A leader in a white nationalist hate group finds healing from the people he once hated: a Muslim heart doctor and his town of refugees. Chris is a husband and father, a veteran, and until recently, a leader in the KKK. He started hating Muslims when the planes hit the Twin Towers on 9/11, but is forced to confront his hate when he receives a text from Muslim refugee, Heval. Refuge illustrates the false promises of hate and reveals where real and lasting refuge is found. Where there is love, there is refuge.

Refuge is set in the most diverse square mile in America--Clarkston, Georgia--and follows a Syrian Kurd, a former Klansman, and a town of refugees who seek belonging in a country that blames them for its problems. Swimming against the current of an increasingly polarized and isolated America, each must decide whether they will risk knowing and being known by those who oppose them. Ultimately, Refuge uncovers what is possible when we leave the security of our tribes and what is at stake for our country if we don’t.


Filmmaker Biographies

Erin Bernhardt (Director, Producer) has won numerous film festival awards, two Peabody Awards, and an Emmy. Her first independent feature documentary, Imba Means Sing aired worldwide on Netflix, Delta Studio, and all major VOD platforms. Prior to independent filmmaking, Erin served in the Peace Corps in Madagascar, worked as a Writer/Producer at CNN, and as the Director of Engagement for Points of Light, President George. H. W. Bush’s foundation. She loves volunteering, traveling, teaching yoga, and making her baby boy giggle.

Din Blankenship (Director, Producer) is an architectural designer turned filmmaker. Her first documentary, Refuge premiered at DOC NYC in 2021 and has won numerous film festival awards. Prior to filmmaking, Din worked in architecture for over a decade. She has a Masters in Architecture with High Distinction from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Virginia. Din has designed transitional shelters for refugees and was invited to present her work at the Symposium for the Architecture of Disaster Relief. In 2021, Din founded Late Bloomer Films and is in pre-production on Love, Your Birth Mom, a documentary that follows several women with unplanned pregnancies who are considering adoption, each ultimately deciding whether to raise their children or place them into the arms of another family.

Joseph East (Director of Photography) is a documentary filmmaker. He has worked nationwide covering subjects as diverse as climate change, animal rights, education, the Junior Olympics, youth arts and more. Previous to joining the Refuge team, Joseph was the Cinematographer/Editor for Your Fantastic Mind (airing on PBS fall 2018) and a Camera Operator for Chasing Coral. Joseph also served as the Director/Cinematographer/Editor on his most recent feature documentary called I Will Dance, which has been broadcast on PBS in Colorado.

Chris Buckley (Film Protagonist) is a Veteran of Afghanistan, former right-wing extremist, and consultant and interventionist at Parents for Peace. Chris is also the creator of the Trauma and Recovery Program, a moral cognitive trauma recovery program that aims to resolve the issues that lead to vulnerability of recruitment into extremist ideology.

Arno Michaelis (Film Protagonist) was a leader of a worldwide racist skinhead organization in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a reverend of a self-declared Racial Holy War, and lead singer of the hate-metal band Centurion, which sold 20,000 CDs by the mid-nineties and is still popular with racists today. Single parenthood, love for his daughter, and the forgiveness shown by people he once hated all helped to turn Arno's life around, bringing him to embrace diversity and practice gratitude for all life. After spending over a decade as a successful information technology consultant and entrepreneur, Arno is now a speaker, author of My Life After Hate, co-author of The Gift of Our Wounds, and very fortunate to be able to share his ongoing process of character development as an educator working with Serve 2 Unite (S2U). Founded as an ongoing peaceful response to the August 5, 2012, Sikh Temple shooting in Oak Creek, WI, S2U engages students creatively with a global network of peacemakers and mentors in partnership with Against Violent Extremism, The Forgiveness Project, Search For Common Ground, and Parents for Peace. Arno’s customizable keynotes and workshops leverage noble qualities of compassion, curiosity, and kindness to engage all human beings, building foundations for diversity appreciation and cultural agility. He also enjoys spending time with his daughter, art, music, and all forms of fearless creative expression, along with climbing things, being underwater, and the wonderful natural beauty of our planet Earth.



September 2-26, 2022

Friday, September 2, 2022 - Wilmington, North Carolina
University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Cucalorus Film Festival, Working Films, and WHQR Public Media with Arno Michaelis (Film Protagonist)

Tuesday, September 6, 2022 - Pikeville, Kentucky
University of Pikeville with Chris Buckley (Film Protagonist)

Wednesday, September 7, 2022 - Winston-Salem, North Carolina
a/perture cinema with Erin Bernhardt (Director, Producer)

Thursday, September 8, 2022 - Lexington, Kentucky
Living Arts and Science Center with Erin Bernhardt (Director, Producer)

Friday, September 9, 2022 - Nashville, Tennessee
Global Education Center & Fisk University with Erin Bernhardt (Director, Producer)

Wednesday, September 14, 2022 - Atlanta, Georgia
Spelman College with Joseph East (Director of Photography)

Wednesday, September 14, 2022 - Birmingham, Alabama
Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema with Din Blankenship (Director, Producer)

Thursday, September 15, 2022 - Cleveland, Mississippi
Bologna Performing Arts Center, Delta State University with Arno Michaelis (Film Protagonist)

Tuesday, September 20, 2022- Sarasota, Florida
WSLR with Din Blankenship (Director, Producer)

Thursday, September 22, 2022 - Miami, Florida
O Cinema with Din Blankenship (Director, Producer)

Saturday, September 24, 2022 - Hapeville, Georgia
City of Hapeville with Erin Bernhardt (Director, Producer)

Monday, September 26, 2022 - Clemson, South Carolina
The Arts Center of Clemson & Clemson University World Cinema Studies Department with Chris Buckley (Film Protagonist)