“Refuge,” Saturday, 5 p.m., Vinegar Hill Theatre
Erin Bernhardt and Din Blankenship, who produced and directed the film, met at UVA more than 15 years ago and began working on the documentary after their paths crossed in Atlanta. When well-known journalist and UVA alumna Katie Couric found out about the project, she decided to support it as executive producer.
Bernhardt said Couric has been a role model for her since she was young.
“It’s been wonderful having her be part of this journey,” said Bernhardt, who is looking forward to meeting Couric in person for the first time when the three of them discuss the film after the screening.
Bernhardt, a 2007 history and government double major, was working at the Atlanta nonprofit Points of Light when she saw television coverage of the violent white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville and on the Grounds on Aug. 11 and 12, 2017. Shortly after, she quit her job.
“I decided I wanted to make a film about the opposite of hate,” said Bernhardt, a former Peace Corps worker. When a UVA friend, Din Blankenship, had moved to Atlanta, Bernhardt enlisted her help. Blankenship, an architect-turned-filmmaker, had designed transitional shelters for refugees. She, too, felt called to action, she said.
Bernhardt decided to focus their film on the Georgia town of Clarkston.
“We set out to capture a story that could help us understand the roots of hate, specifically American white nationalism,” Blankenship added. “The story that we captured … also shows us what a path toward healing looks like.”
Bernhardt said they’re coming full circle. “This started because of Charlottesville, and now, to be showing it in Charlottesville – that’s pretty amazing. We hope to awaken people’s empathy and open their hearts and minds to people who are different from them.”
The film will be released nationwide in theaters and streaming services in spring 2023.