Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 5 August 2020

Refugees' stories: 11 short films that shed light on the lives of displaced children

The films, featuring Hollywood stars Angelina Jolie and Ben Stiller, can be watched online free as part of Sharjah International Film Festival for Children and Youth

It’s difficult not to smile while looking at Razan. The eight-year-old Syrian refugee is beaming as she holds up her drawing of a princess with a balloon, under a sky spangled with stars, butterflies, hearts and a crescent moon. Beside her, seated on a mattress in a refugee camp in Lebanon, is Ben Stiller.

“When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut. That was my big dream, I wanted to go to the Moon,” says Stiller, who besides being an actor is a UNHCR goodwill ambassador. “Razan would like to be a doctor and a princess.”

“Amira,” Razan says, translating 'princess' to Arabic, trying to speak through her smile as she looks at Stiller.

The minute-long film, titled Do You Remember Your Childhood Dreams?, then becomes a charming animation based on Razan’s drawing. The film is among a selection of 11 shorts the Sharjah International Film Festival for Children and Youth (Siff) is screening on its online platform, Our Home Cinema, until Sunday, August 12.

The annual festival is organised by Funn – Sharjah Media Arts For Youth and Children.

The films in the Refugees’ Stories series explore experiences from around the world. They delve into the lives of the protagonists, shedding light on the trials that child refugees and their families face in their quest for freedom, peace and togetherness.

The films range from minute-long heavy hitters to 20-minute shorts and are made by filmmakers from Canada, Lebanon, Ethiopia, Iceland, Kenya, Syria, the USA and Egypt.

Among the films in the selection is RefuSHE Kenya’s Safe House, a documentary that chronicles the resilience of young female refugees in Sub-Saharan Africa. The film follows the girls as they organise a weekly fashion show, encouraging each other to be strong, proud and confident as they take to the runway. It is a special moment for them when UNHCR special envoy and Hollywood star Angelina Jolie makes an appearance as a guest at their show.

In Safe House – 4 Years Later, filmmaker Marco Bollinger returns to the Saadnayel refugee camp in Lebanon to teach a video storytelling workshop to the same girls he followed over four years for the film. The young women co-create a unique perspective on their lives, shooting much of the film themselves, interviewing each other, co-directing and ultimately interviewing Bollinger, posing many of the same questions they ask each other.

Other films in the series include: Abducted Iraqi Boy Reunites with Family in Canada, which tells the story of 13-year-old Emad as he rejoins his mother and siblings in Canada after being held captive by extremists in Iraq for three years; Ethiopia: Nyahok’s Quest, which follows 16-year-old Nyahok, who lives in a camp in Gambella as she dreams of becoming a pilot; and Sudanese Refugee Girl Chases Education Dream in Egypt, which tells the story of Nousa, who travels to Egypt with one ambition: to secure an education for herself, and shape a future for her family.

The films can be watched for free on the SIFF website, www.siff.ae

Updated: July 14, 2020 02:29 PM

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