11 powerful refugee films to watch for Refugee Week

By 04/06/2020February 7th, 2023Tips
young campaigners' film

The young campaigners who produced the new documentary ‘Guardians’. Courtesy of The Children’s Society

One of our Simple Acts – everyday actions we can all do to learn about refugee issues – is ‘Watch a Film’. What better opportunity to do that than during these long days at home?

For this reason, we have put together a selection of recently-released movies made by refugees or that tell their stories. That’s because we strongly believe in the importance of storytelling from experts by experience. These are usually the voices we hear the least but are the most powerful of all.

1. The Swimmers (2022)

Sally El Hosaini’s BAFTA-nominated film is based on the remarkable true story of sisters Sara and Yusra Mardini who fled war-torn Syria in search for safety. It shows their harrowing journey swimming for hours in the Mediterranean Sea to reach Greece, before finding asylum in Germany and competing at the Rio Olympic games. The film gives us an insight to the journeys of people seeking safety.

Available on Netflix.

2. Flee (2021)

Flee is a Riz Ahmed-produced animated movie about an Afghan refugee in Denmark that has been nominated in three categories for the 2022 Oscars, including Best Animated Feature and Best International Feature.

The film delves into Amin Nawabi’s past as a refugee from Afghanistan, as he is about to marry his husband in Denmark.

Available to rent on Sky Store, Amazon and other streaming platforms. 

3. Limbo (2020)

A gently emotional story about a group of asylum seekers awaiting for their results on a fictional remote Scottish island. Among them is Omar, a young Syrian musician burdened by the weight of his grandfather’s oud, which he has carried all the way from his homeland. By Director Ben Shamrock, it received many accolades, including a nomination for Outstanding British Film at the BAFTAs.

Available to watch on Mubi.

4. His House (2020)

This Netflix film applies the supernatural horror genre to the refugee experience. It tells the story of a refugee couple from South Sudan adjusting to their new life in an English town, including facing xenophobia, but there is evil lurking beneath the surface.

Available to watch on Netflix.

5. Sky and Ground (2018)

Following the arduous journey of the Syrian-Kurdish Nabi family from Aleppo to Germany, this movie manages to vividly depict the struggles of one three-generation family and, at the same time, to pull us into one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our time.

Available on YouTube and Google Play.  

6. Manus (2019)

This very poetic film offers an unedited insight into the hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers captivated offshore by the Australian Federal Government on Manus Island. Thanks to the starkness of its black and white shots, this multi-award-winning documentary focuses very intimately on the people, so that we can hear their stories directly.

Available for free on Vimeo.

7. A Road to Oxford (2020)

After escaping from Syria in 2018, the English literature teacher Rawan has found his new home in Oxford, UK. In this short movie, he takes us around the city, reflecting on the physical and emotional journey that brought him there. “On my second day in Oxford,” he explains at some point, “I took a walk in the city and I felt stunned with the rich history of the city. I wanted to live here, I felt so close to the culture.”

Available for free on Vimeo.

8. Human flow (2017)

Filmed across 23 countries by international artist and filmmaker Ai Weiwei, this movie studies the global issue of migration with a completely apolitical approach. Rather, it aims to show the human side of the phenomenon, putting a face to the immense numbers involved in migration routes every year.

Available on BFI Player or here.

9. Guardians (2020)

“I went to my Home Office interview without support. Do you know what that is like? She rang me on the day to say she couldn’t make it. I would not want that to happen to anyone.” Many asylum-seeking children and young people arrive in the UK without any family to support them. After experiencing unimaginable ordeals to get here, their difficult journey is far from over once they arrive. This new documentary produced by young campaigners of The Children’s Society follows an exceptional group of young people who have lived through these challenges and are using their voice to speak up for other young people. The short film follows the group on their journey to Glasgow as they investigate the guardianship scheme and campaign for more support to be available for unaccompanied children in England and Wales.

Available for free on The Children Society website.

10. For Sama (2019)

A self-shot, intimate and visceral documentary, BAFTA-award-winning For Sama is a journey through motherhood during the bombings of the Syrian Civil War. Waad al-Kateab’s first feature documentary is a story of love, resilience and hope, but framed by suffering and harsh dilemmas. On Monday 15 June, IOM (International Organisation for Migration) and Action for Sama will also host a discussion panel with director Waad Al-Kateab as part of Refugee Week. Read the IMIX review of this film here.

Available for free on Channel 4.

11. Midnight Traveller (2019)

You can’t help but get emotional watching this poignant family tale. Filmmaker Hassan Fazili documented his family’s journey to seek sanctuary in Europe after fleeing Afghanistan in 2015, using only smartphones. It is a deeply moving story showing how bravery, hope and family love can overcome violence and racism.

Available on Amazon Prime Video.  

We hope you’ll enjoy watching these films and that they will inspire you as they did with us.

Author IMIX

More posts by IMIX