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The Furthest Possible Place: The Journey of Ana Maria Seifert
Directed by Martin Duckworth

SYNOPSIS

A young, Bolivian university student becomes concerned about the plight of impoverished local Indians. Inspired by a priest from Quebec who has gone down to Bolivia to work with them, Ana Maria takes up their cause politically to improve their living conditions. At odds with the military government in control, she is soon imprisoned for her work, and eventually exiled to "The Furthest Possible Place." The documentary tells the story of Ana Maria's life as a refugee in Montreal, and the grit and determination she uses to get an education, raise her family, and find a profession where she can continue to work for social equity and justice.


KEY IDEAS

  • Occupational Health and Safety issues
  • The importance of community support
  • Canada's recognition of professional accreditation from other countries


KEY TERMS

  • Coup d'etat
  • Refugee/political exile
  • Class system
  • Unions
  • Political prisoner

OBJECTIVES

  • To appreciate the supportive role of friends, family and community for immigrants/refugees
  • To see how perseverance and education are essential assets when starting a new life
  • To understand what it's like to "become someone again."
  • To learn about the role of unions and the need to improve working conditions
  • To understand the difference between an immigrant and a refugee.


QUESTIONS

  1. Where is Bolivia, and what is the make-up of its population?
  2. What happened to Ana Maria's family that helped her develop compassion for people less fortunate than herself?
  3. How did Ana Maria first meet the Indians who looked after her in her youth?
  4. Who was the Oblate Priest Maurice Le Fevre. Why was he killed?
  5. Why did Anna Maria protest against the Bolivian government in her youth?
  6. What was prison like for Ana Maria. What helped make it bearable for her?
  7. Why did one Indian man believe that the young Ana Maria would "spit on me" when she became older?
  8. Why do so many immigrant/refugee women become domestic workers or chambermaids in hotels?
  9. Why do you think Ana Maria went into the field of occupational health and safety for her profession?
  10. What did "The furthest possible place" mean in Ana Maria Seifert's life?


ACTIVITIES

1) When Ana Maria was in prison, she said they tried to break the spirit of the prisoners, but "They didn't succeed because we would stick together." Write an essay on the principle of "United we stand, divided we fall." Use some examples where you have seen how collective work can accomplish things that a single person can't.

2) Ana Maria lives in a housing co-op in Montreal with thousands of other exiles from South America, like her. What do you think are the positive aspects of living close to people from your own homeland when you are in a new country. What are the down sides?

3) Ana Maria says of her experience as an exile: "You have to reconstruct your history to find your identity. You have to become someone again." Pretend you have been vocal about your disagreement the way the government works and Canada, and that to stay alive, you have been told you must go to "The furthest possible Place" to live. Write a personal account of where you would go and how you would invent a new life. Talk about the difficulties and problems you are facing, as well as your hopes and dreams about your new future.

4) Anna Maria said "I think all immigrants/refugees have guilt. We leave and are saved, and we feel guilty about what happens to those left behind." Talk to people you know in your family or community who have left their home country. Ask them if they have experienced guilt like Anna Maria has, and write up your findings, including how the people you spoke to have dealt with this guilt.

5) Anna Maria works with unions to help improve working conditions in Montreal (and other places.) Research the history of the union movement in Montreal, and explain why unions started up, what early conditions were like, and what the health and safety issues are there today for workers. Make sure you cover the garment industry in your research.

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