In Zimbabwe's capital city of Harare, Tsitsi Bergman '98, '04 MBA, became accustomed to waving goodbye to her parents as they embarked on "exotic journeys to far-off lands," she says. "I was so envious of them-they traveled all the time, leaving me and my sister behind with my grandparents and the cattle on their farm."
She is proud and reflective of the childhood that first sparked in her an understanding of the power of story. "I wanted to see these places, to experience these moments that my mother and father talked about with such excitement. And while I may not have been able to physically go to these places, I was able to in my mind, in my heart."
Fast-forward three decades, and Bergman is the one bringing the world home, introducing Quad Citians to Mexican children in pursuit of freedom, Harlem families fighting alarming literacy rates, and a young girl struggling with racial and culture identity in Australia. She's doing so through Backdoor Independent Film Café at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, which screens award-winning independent films and documentaries from around the world, with the intent of using stories to further global dialogue.
"No matter what I'm showing, I'm always bringing in a different perspective to an audience of like-minded people who are interested in looking at life differently," she says. "You see, stories empower. They are a way of life-a way we breathe. Our society is too into judging people right now. I'm interested in a return to ‘the heart'-of a story, of a person, of our world."
Since the film café's premiere showing this past summer, panel discussions and social hours have indeed led to deeper discussions on cultural identity, politics and social injustices. One film brought together Davenport's mayor and school board members for a panel on education reform. These discussions, Bergman hopes, are helping create the connections she desired when she first stepped onto U.S. soil 17 years ago-connections contributing to a global culture which celebrates the similarities that unite us, rather than the differences that divide us.
"Maybe we all can't travel like my parents, but there are films that can bring us to new places, expose us to new ideas, and remind us who we are," Bergman says, "to bring us home."