7 powerful refugee films to watch ahead of Refugee Week 2020

By 04/06/2020 Tips
young campaigners' film

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

Refugee Week 2020 is fast approaching and one of its Simple Acts – everyday actions we can all do to make new connections in our communities – 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. 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.  

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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. For more movie suggestions, check out Moving Worlds, the film festival of Refugee Week.

Author Gaia Lamperti

More posts by Gaia Lamperti