Never underestimate an underdog with a flat ball

The Filmmaker

Director Francine Strickwerda’s award-winning independent feature documentaries including Oil & Water and Busting Out, have screened on Showtime, PBS, Netflix, Amazon and television channels all over the world. With stories ranging from one of the world’s worst toxic disasters, to the politics of America’s breast obsession, and now immigrant kids winning at Ultimate Frisbee, her films explore power, trauma and healing. Francine’s work has been funded by MacArthur Foundation, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Chicken & Egg Pictures, and many others. As co-owner of Seattle creative video agency Hullabaloo, she directs, produces and writes strategic films for some of the world’s most recognizable brands and non-profits. Francine grew up a teacher’s kid and began her career in journalism, first as a newspaper reporter, and then as a producer at Seattle’s KCTS Public Television. She has a 12-year-old son and is an avid Salish Sea open water swimmer.

Flock This Way Films was founded by Francine Strickwerda to create documentaries that spark and inspire with provocative stories about people, culture, politics and the environment.

Hullabaloo is a Seattle-based creative video agency that specializes in award-winning television documentaries, as well as advertising and brand storytelling for the tech industry and non-profits.

Director’s Statement

ULTIMATE CITIZENS is not a movie about Frisbee. The “flat ball” is one tool that Jamshid Khajavi uses in his work as a primary school counselor. A fiery, funny 65-year-old Iranian immigrant and ultra-endurance athlete, Jamshid does his best work on the playing field with his students, the children of refugees and immigrants.

In a season of healing, Jamshid coaches two intrepid 11-year-olds, Nyahoak, whose South Sudanese parents came to the U.S. as refugees, and Pio, whose Samoan parents came for a better a life, but became homeless. Jamshid mentors the kids on their way to compete in the world’s largest youth Ultimate Frisbee tournament.

The story unfolds at Hazel Wolf K-8 School in Seattle, a city known for its high-tech companies and $7 coffees. It’s also an America where many families quietly struggle to afford housing and survive.

Jamshid’s efforts to build community where all kids can thrive are heroic. But it’s the parents who work low paying jobs around the clock, and their first-generation Americans kids, who are the champions. They save themselves, with a little help from a counselor in a supportive school.

At a time when schools are on the frontlines of America’s culture wars, some politicians and parents are fighting the work of counselors like Jamshid. He teaches social emotional learning and sex education. He talks with families about grief and loss, and helps remove barriers to learning and belonging.

Today there are roughly 100 million forcibly displaced people around the world – more than at any time in modern history. The plight of these asylum seekers is increasingly met with anti-immigrant policies and violence.

The documentary offers an antidote of a more welcoming America. You often hear Jamshid saying to people, “I’m so glad you’re here,” and he means it. For almost 40 years he’s taught children how to be “ultimate citizens” – to look out for themselves and each other, and to choose inclusion over exclusion. Jamshid and the kids show us how to do the hardest work of all – find our way forward, together.

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