Interview: Din Blankenship Talks “Call To Action” Approach To ‘Refuge’

The documentary is now out in theaters and is available On Demand via Shout! Studios.


Refuge, directed and produced by Din Blankenship and Erin Bernhardt, centers on the unlikely friendship of military veteran and former KKK member Chris Buckley and Dr. Heval Kelli, a Kurdish refugee. Blankenship talked to Deepest Dream about the origins of Refuge and how the project evolved over the years.

The documentary began in 2017 as Din Blankenship and Erin Bernhardt as a response to the Charlottesville riots. “There was this rise and hate in extremism, specifically white nationalism that felt like something that needed to be addressed,” said Blankenship. “When we were seeing neo-Nazis and white supremacists storm the streets of this city, we felt a call to action.”

Dr. Heval Kelli, “Refuge” – (ph: Joseph East)

Clarkston, Georgia was the first location for their project, which over the years understandably grew to thousands of hours of footage. “We felt like the refugee community in Clarkston, their voices needed to be heard in this moment,” said Blankenship. “They are survivors of hate and extremism and they knew really intimately what happens when polarization goes unchecked and becomes tribalism. That’s where we started.”

The filmmakers spent two years editing the documentary and one and a half years of gathering footage for the project. “We knew the stories were related,” added Blankenship. “Chris’ transformation and this community and Chris and Heval’s ultimate friendship, but it took us a long time to stitch them into one story.”

Chris Buckley, “Refuge” (ph: Joseph East)

Refuge’s effectiveness lies in its concentration on. the friendship between Chris Buckley and Dr. Heval Kelli. The Clarkston community also receive a healthy share of time in the doc, and the two stories were seamlessly interwoven. The documentary, which has Katie Couric as an executive producer, is now out in theaters and is available On Demand. For more info, go to

Video and audio version of the Din Blankenship interview is below:

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