“When people arrive here, they’re so excited, and then they start to decompress,” says Michael Robin, Rainbow Railroad refugee mentor in Someone Like Me. “You start to think how much you’ve given up: language, culture, family, place. And you gave it all up because of this one piece of who you are.”
Someone Like Me, which the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) released today for free streaming, is a timely story for Pride Month. The film by Sean Horlor and Steve J. Adams observes the community effort to create a safe haven for Drake, a 22-year-old Ugandan who leaves home to avoid persecution for being gay. Someone Like Me follows Drake’s journey from living in the shadows to being out in the open as several Vancouverites work together with the non-profit Rainbow Railroad, which connects LGBTQ asylum seekers with prospective sponsors.
The film ultimately gives a portrait of the sense of community in the queer scene through the ups and downs that Drake encounters with his support network. Through Drake’s story and those of his sponsors, Horlor and Adams observe the dedication it takes to give someone like Drake a chance, but also how Canada’s sponsorship programs still put a heavy degree of responsibility on the goodwill of individuals to provide these fresh starts. Yet by putting the cameras in the hands of their subjects when COVID-19 enters the picture, Someone Like Me provides moments of candid intimacy that illustrate just how essential these programs are, but also how much more needs to be done.
“For sure, Canada is doing a decent job with its immigration and refugee programs, but Canada is also a country with a racism problem. Racism is woven into the fabric of Canada’s institutions and its legal systems. It’s systemic,” said Adams while speaking with Matt Hays for our Spring/Summer 2021 issue. “We took [Drake] shopping for skin cream on one of our shoot days and a security guard followed us through the drug store. That has never happened when it’s just Sean and I shopping together in the same store and it really goes to show the privilege we have as white gay men. Canada might be more progressive than the US, but there’s certainly a lot of work to do at home.”
Watch Someone Like Me today from the NFB.
Someone Like Me, Sean Horlor & Steve J. Adams, provided by the National Film Board of Canada
Presented in partnership with the NFB.