Leper of Pickens documentary film to be featured in WV FILMmakers Festival Oct. 1

Last spring, Marshall University faculty member Dr. Peggy Harman and her husband, Jason, spent nine months filming and editing the documentary "George Rashid: The Leper of Pickens."

Now, the story of George Rashid, a young Lebanese/Syrian man who was ostracized for the lesions on his skin, will be told at the West Virginia FILMmakers Festival on Saturday, Oct. 1. The film is in the Short Documentary Category.

Harman said the documentary was aired for the first time in Smith Recital Hall on Marshall’s Huntington campus last April with grant funding from the West Virginia Humanities Council. She said more audiences will be given the chance to watch the film at Saturday’s festival and consider how uneducated assumptions can lead to tragic consequences.

"George was only 17 years old when he arrived in America in 1901 with a group of Maronite Catholics, full of hope for his future. He was in essence a missionary – someone who could be the son of any modern-day religious youth group who travels abroad. George’s English was not perfect and most people could not understand him," Harman said. "He went from seeking medical attention to becoming an international sensation, much like the Ebola outbreak of today. I hope this film will appeal to that portion of all of us that is sometimes quick to judge people and situations without benefit of the facts."

The documentary will begin at 4:40 p.m., at the Elk Theatre in Sutton, W.Va., this Saturday. The West Virginia FILMmakers Festival schedule can be viewed at http://wvfilmmakersfestival.org/schedule/.

The film will also be shown at 7:30 p.m., in Halliehurst Dining Room on Oct. 20 at Davis and Elkins College in Elkins – the very place where Rashid’s nightmare began. Harman said this screening is particularly symbolic as it falls on what would be the 110th anniversary of Rashid’s death.

To learn more about the Leper of Pickens, contact Harman at proudfoothar@marshall.edu or call 304-696-3146. For more information on the West Virginia Humanities Council, visit their website at http://wvhumanities.org. To learn more about Harman and her work in Marshall’s Department of Social Work, visit www.marshall.edu/social-work.


Photo: "George Rashid: The Leper of Pickens" is the story of a young Syrian/Lebanese Maronite Catholic man who arrived in America in 1901. Most Lebanese immigrants were seeking religious freedom and escape from Ottoman rule and it is believed that Rashid was part of that movement. Rashid initially went to Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, and eventually traveled to Waterville, Maine, as part of the Maronite Catholics who were colonizing the area. He worked in a paper mill, developed skin lesions and later died from his condition.