Shelbyville, Tenn., and Boise have a lot in common. OK, maybe not at first glance. In fact, Boise feels like a big city in comparison--Shelbyville is home to a mere 20,000 residents, according to a 2009 census, while Boise boasts more than 200,000. But it's not the numbers that matter, it's the people. And--as seen in the trailer for the documentary Welcome to Shelbyville--it's clear that the people of Shelbyville and Boise have both seen and felt the effects of demographic change.
Shelbyville is Boise in microcosm. Like Boise, a large percentage of Shelbyville's population is white. Like Boise, Shelbyville has seen an influx of immigrants and refugees. This documentary, part of Boise State's Diverse Perspectives Film Series, explores the dynamics that arise between these groups in small town, post-9/11 America.
The documentary follows locals as they ask questions about the newcomers--questions that range from the curious: "Why does she dress that way?" to the more racially loaded: "Are they going to blow us up?" Those who participated in the documentary are candid about their fears, such as the economy, religion and the force of a changing city. All these issues culminate with the election of President Barack Obama--a time when the topic of race was inescapable.
Fundamentally, the film tries to show us how we understand those who are different from us.