In September 1940, three teenagers were trapped on a steamship in the port of Hampton Roads, Virginia. Along with 83 other exhausted refugees, the teens were hoping to be allowed on American soil— where millions of others in distress had safely landed before them. But times had changed. America was turning away refugees at this critical time in history. Would they be turned away too? “Nobody Wants Us” is their story.
Through the stories of three teens we learn about the inherent goodness of others at a time when the world seemed against them. With the help of a Virginia maritime lawyer, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and a State Department employee, they eventually found freedom on the shores of Hampton Roads in VA.
“Nobody Wants Us” tells the story of some of the last refugees allowed into the United States until the end of World War II. With this first-hand account of Holocaust survivors who resettled in the U.S. in 1940, our goal is to create a better understanding of the plight of refugees everywhere.
This is a timely story that parallels how the United States responds to many refugees fleeing war torn countries over the years. The relevance of this story goes far beyond the historical significance of the S.S. Quanza. It reinforces the concept of helping those in need in any way possible - especially in light of the United States’ response to the refugee crisis today.
My main motivation for making this film was to inspire today's youth and remind them that we can all make a difference. Big or small, every act of kindness, decency and humanitarianism is important. In the film we meet several heroes on the local, national and international level who took risks and chose to help when these refugees had nowhere else to turn.
I hope this film will have a lasting impression on current and future generations. The relevance of this story goes far beyond the historical significance of the S.S. Quanza, the refugees from Europe and the turmoil felt all around the globe during World War II. My vision is to not only raise awareness of this little-known story but to reinforce the concept of helping those in need in any way possible - especially in light of the United States’ response to the refugee crisis today.
One of the creative challenges in making the film was recreating first-person narratives from 1940. There were only a few photos of each of these refugees on the SS Quanza. Therefore, watercolor illustrations were created from archival photos and freeze frames of archival film to help the audience visualize what these refugees endured. Additionally, teenage and adult voice actors gave a voice to these characters back in 1940. The voices were then intercut with current day interviews with the few remaining witnesses who are still alive today. Archival footage, photos and music helped to support the content.
Laura Seltzer-Duny, Director/Producer
Laura Seltzer-Duny is an award-winning PBS documentary and educational filmmaker who has a special interest in producing documentaries about communities and unsung heroes. She has always been drawn to the topic of migration and has produced numerous stories about the plight of refugees and their stories of resettlement. Laura is based in the Washington, DC area and will travel around the globe for a cause she believes in.
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Jessica Lynn Curry
A film about teenage refugees and their voyage to freedom.
"Nobody Wants Us" tells the story of three teenagers and their families hoping to make it safely onto American soil after escaping the Nazi invasion of Europe.