A balding white guy with red framed glasses and facial hair smiling sitting at a table with his arm around a bald black man in a white and black designed sweater also smiling

Who knew the war-torn Congo and Hollywood would meet in Ohio and make for a good movie subject?

Keida Mascaro – that's who. 

"I gotta make this movie – here, 100% in Columbus, with Columbus money and as much Columbus talent as possible," said Mascaro of New Americans, his and writer Jeffrey Newman's drama about a former Congolese boy-soldier-turned-refugee-turned-immigrant landing here wearing his decades-old refugee camp Surf Ohio t-shirt and a desire to find a certain Ohio amusement park he became aware of in the refugee camp. 

"He comes to Columbus because of that shirt and an old '80s cassette Columbus radio mix-tape that has an Ohio amusement park ad," Mascaro explained at the Luck Brothers coffee shop after his post-Thanksgiving workout. "It's his dream, escaping the nightmare horrors of civil war and the get-nowhere camp and finding a paradise of amusement parks and maybe some surfing. Of course reality butts in and his extended family is there for him to a point. His PTSD and naivete complicate matters something fierce."

Essentially New Americans is about immigration, PTSD and American identity. "America is changing, cultures are connecting and colliding and amazingly enough, we're practically the proverbial test-market American city for that."

The idea came to him after he moved back to Columbus after 15 years in L.A. working on the fringes of the business. He was struck by the new international make-up of the city's once-white-bread-predominant culture, its large population of war refugees and regular immigrants from the Middle East and Africa.

"This isn't a highly politicized, anti-Trump film," said Mascaro. "It's from the point of view of a young man who knows little more than horror of war and despair of a refugee camp. And how it's a new experience for the black and white Americans already here."        

This is Mascaro's second film shot here. Last year he collaborated with longtime Columbus friends writer/director Chris Freeman and ophthalmologist/independent movie producer Aaron Mack on the million-dollar Confessions of an Exorcist, shot entirely in central Ohio with mostly local cast and crew and a few B-list Hollywood actors. The film's release is imminent, proving that thanks to advanced movie production technology it can be done without Tinsel Town breathing down your neck.

This past spring the pair got serious and got down to business. With the help of the city's immigrant and refugee services they recorded 200 hours of sound and vision interviewing nearly 100 'new Americans' and getting their stories.

"I was stunned emotionally, day after day," said Mascaro of the experience. "Listening to what they left behind and how sometimes completely disorienting our modern America can be for them, well, I found myself pulling for them like you can't believe. I had no idea it was going to be so intense."

He smiles, laughing just a little. "But hey, I get it, man!" 

Then it was back to L.A. in the fall to start knocking on doors in Hollywood. "We showed the script to every single movie person we knew and some we didn't," to get the word out that a script about a former Congolese boy-soldier was going straight into the American heartland and the entire movie was going to be shot there. If there was L.A. money or expertise interested, "they know where to find us – Columbus, Ohio," said Mascaro.

An L.A.-based legal team was a necessity and once acquired persuaded Mascaro and Newman to focus their strategy at conquering the festival circuit--Sundance and Tribeca, not Toronto or Cannes. "We're really comfortable with that and we understand: Sundance is just down the road from Columbus – I-70 West!"

Budget desired--around $3 million. What is soon needed to go from their current Phase One to pre-production for shooting here in summer of '19 is about $500,000. "We get that and we're confident we can flag down matching funds. If that happens, we're in business. We really hope we can get our financing here, we're damned serious about that. We've got a lot of interest in L.A. Can we get Columbus interested? I don't wanna get my heart broken. But I'm willing to risk it."

Mascaro encourages interested actors, make-up artists, sound engineers, interns and particularly potential investors to contact him at


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