Fremont's Story Hits the Big Screen

February 1, 2009

Author: Matthew Artz

Source: The Argus

To some, Fremont might be just another pool in California's sea of subdivisions and strip malls.

But not to Harvard researchers.

They first visited the city nearly 20 years ago and returned in 2006 for the city's 50th birthday to make a movie that will be premiered next week: "Fremont USA."

The 57-minute documentary looks at how the city has handled huge demographic shifts that have turned a mostly white town of about 23,000 into the Bay Area's fourth largest city, and one of a growing number in which Asians are the majority.

"We thought a portrait of Fremont would be particularly compelling since for a city of its size, it is so diverse," said Elinor Pierce, the film's co-director and co-producer.

She first visited Fremont in the early 1990s as a graduate student for Harvard's Pluralism Project. The research center, which funded "Fremont USA," studies America's growing religious diversity since a 1965 federal immigration law allowed for new emigration from Asian countries.

The center did profiles of Fremont and a dozen other cities more than 15 years ago and has been studying Fremont ever since, Pierce said.

"I think (the filmmakers) have done a very good job," said Muslim Support Network Founder Moina Shaiq, who participated in the film and received an advance copy.

The movie, which includes interviews with City Council members as well as religious and community leaders, portrays Fremont as a city that has handled diversity well, even though it has had a few sad moments along the way.