Documentary featuring Village Exchange Center screens at Cannes Film Festival

In “My Father’s House,” members of various ethnic and religious groups packed into the new Village Exchange Center for an event sharing food from different cultures.
Screen grab from documentary “My Father’s House.”

AURORA | The story of north Aurora’s Village Exchange Center takes on the 75th Cannes Film Festival this weekend in France. 

“My Father’s House” — a 16-minute film made by two Denverites, Rob Shearer and Amanda Blaurock, who co-founded the center — will screen at the Emerging Filmmaker Showcase on May 22.

The documentary tells the story many in the city know well: St. Matthew Lutheran Church’s transition to the Village Exchange Center, a multi-faith worship center that offers free services and community programming to more than 10,000 immigrants and refugees hailing from more than two dozen countries in the Aurora-Denver region.

Beyond worship, VEC hosts food pantries, a community garden, legal services and more. During the pandemic it launched a vaccine clinic and organized funds to support low-income workers and undocumented workers who did not qualify for federal aid, and its food pantry expanded “exponentially,” Blaurock said.

Speaking to The Sentinel from Cannes, Blaurock said the VEC’s work is a powerful testament to how religious communities can reinvent themselves into outward-facing ministries.

“It’s a great story of death and rebirth,” she said.

She said it felt particularly meaningful to have their film play at the festival this year as over four million refugees have entered Europe following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Blaurock and Shearer first met at the 2018 Cannes festival, shortly before St. Matthew’s was preparing to transition into the Village Exchange Center. Shearer was able to get a crew together to film the congregation’s last months together and follow the VEC as it expanded into a community hub providing programs such as the Village Farms at Stanley, which works to reduce food insecurity by growing organic produce.

This is the first full-length Cannes Film Festival since the beginning of the pandemic, and Shearer said having the film screen at the festival feels like coming full-circle.

“Who would have thought that in four years we’d be back here and have something exciting to show for what we’ve done?” he said.

St. Matthew Lutheran Church’s pastor Marcel Narucki embraced north Aurora’s changing demographic in 2016 after realizing his church’s following was dwindling and there was a need for more services, religious and beyond, for the neighborhood where immigrants and refugees were settling. About 80% of Colorado’s refugees are resettled within one mile of the former church, according to the documentary.

“My Father’s House” won an Emerging Documentary award in early 2021 from the Cannes Film Festival after originally debuting in a private Telluride film festival screening in 2020.It also won the 2021 Progressive World award from the Horsetooth Film Festival.

“These are divisive times,” Narucki says in the film. “We can see the other as an alien other, as someone that’s a problem, or we can see the other as someone to whom I belong.”

Watch a trailer of the film here.

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