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A Somali man and a white woman navigate love in “First Person Plural”


The son of a Somali imam and the daughter of a white Baptist preacher meet in a Twin Cities camera store.

They both love movies, and, soon, each other—after bonding over their filmmaking styles and their upbringings as kids of clergy. Both contend with tradition and convene at the church of cinema.

They begin to film each other. They fall lens-first. This is a movie—the new First Person Plural—so we know what must happen. Their families butt in. Deep-seated shame comes out. Thanksgiving arrives, and he invites her to dinner at his parents’ apartment. She accepts. But her own intrusive parents have something else in mind.

As their relationship deepens, so does a parallel narrative about the Twin Cities. “Culturally, the story’s two families represent a new Minnesota,” says director Eric Tretbar, referring to how the Somali community here has grown to the largest in North America over the past 10 years.

Tretbar worked with his local cast on the script. He developed it while observing cases of political extremism. Prejudice seemed to trot out “grim and violent caricatures.” Film, he thought, could unmask Muslim and Christian stereotypes—in the tension-breaking tradition of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. The racism, the questions of assimilation, are serious, but humor can open surprising paths to empathy.

The 94-minute, all-ages movie gets a special preview screening at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis, at 8 p.m. on April 12. A post-show discussion encourages contextual thinking at 9:40 p.m.

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