Undocumented Migrants

The Golden Dream
The Golden Dream

This selection of films explore the challenges faced by undocumented migrants. ‘Undocumented' is a term used to describe migrants who have moved from their country of birth without the documents and permits requested by immigrations laws for them to ‘legally' live in another country. The term is also used to describe those who have their permits rejected or expired.

Hostile attitudes towards migrants, combined with border control laws, makes the lives of undocumented people very difficult all over the world. Many face deportation, separation from their families and a lack of access to necessities such as employment, education and social security depending on the law of the country they find themselves in. 

The term ‘undocumented' describes a wide range of experiences - There are those who must cross borders due to poverty and survival, asylum seekers who are seeking refugee due to facing persecution or threat in their home country, and those who simply chose to move to better their lives. This selection of feature films and documentaries reflect how being undocumented is not a singular experience, with stories that range from young people going on long journeys across borders, individuals undergoing right-to-remain application processes, to films about friendship, family and resistance. These films can be used to spark discussion amongst young people about how these realities are experienced by individuals internationally as well as closer to home.

Home

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration90 mins

Home(2014)

Colourful comedy adventure about a tribe of aliens in search of a new place to live.

This light-hearted animation about an alien called Oh, who embarks on a journey with a teenage girl called Tip to find her mother, touches on themes of forced displacement and the struggle of belonging.

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Paddington

CertPG

Age group7–14

Duration91 mins

Paddington(2014)

Charming family film about an accident prone young bear from Peru arriving in London and searching for a new home.

Although not explicitly about undocumented people, the film explores themes of exclusion, as well as belonging, and the role communities play in welcoming others.

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An American Tail

CertU

Age group5–11

Duration77 mins

An American Tail(1986)

Warm animated family adventure sees a Russian mouse flee his homeland and persecution by cats for a new life in America.

This classic animation is an accessible place to start discussions on discrimination with a story of mice leaving their homes to escape persecutions from cats. The film is an allegory to the migration of Jewish people to America as well as the urgency in which some people migrate.

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Morgen

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration100 mins

Morgen(2010)

Comedy about the unlikely friendship between a supermarket security guard and a Turkish refugee for whom he provides shelter.

This gentle film looks at the issues of borders and proposes empathy as a tool to overcome them in this story about two characters who do not understand each other’s language.

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Alambrista!

Cert12

Age group14+

Duration94 mins

Alambrista!(1977)

A tough, original and absorbing movie about immigration and building a new life.

This 70s film’s title is a Spanish word for ‘wire walker’ and was used at the time to describe Mexican migrants who crossed the border to the US. This story follows a Mexican farmer who crosses the border to California to build a better life and send money back home when his daughter is born.

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A Better Life

Cert12

Age group11+

Duration93 mins

A Better Life(2011)

Carlos, a Mexican gardener, is struggling to raise his 14 year-old son in a tough Los Angeles neighbourhood, whilst living in fear of deportation.

A Los Angeles rarely depicted on screen, that of marginal and precarious workers, is centred in this film about a father struggling to make ends meet while simultaneously trying to support his teenage son who is coming closer to crime due to their living conditions.

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Sin Nombre

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration101 mins

Sin Nombre(2009)

Powerful drama about a young man and woman from Honduras making the dangerous journey north to try to cross from the Mexican border to the US.

This narrative explores the violence created by borders and the long distances people travel for a better life from the perspective of young people. It interconnects two stories: one about a young girl on a journey through Guatemala and Mexico and the other a young gang member who robs those on trains travelling to the US border.

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The Golden Dream

Cert12

Age group14+

Duration108 mins

The Golden Dream(2013)

Unconventional road movie about a group of undocumented teen Guatemalan migrants and their perilous journey to a new life in the US.

This beautiful road movie explores friendship between three Guatemalan teenagers and an indigenous Tzotzil boy who doesn’t speak Spanish and who they befriend on the way to the United States.

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Dirty Pretty Things

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration97 mins

Dirty Pretty Things(2002)

Two undocumented migrants form a close bond as they help each other navigate the hostile and dangerous underbelly of a London most of us never see.

Set closer to home, this harrowing film depicts exploitation of migrant workers in London and the dangers experienced by those without social security, who cannot report crimes due to their vulnerable status.

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Leave To Remain

Cert15

Age group14+

Duration89 mins

Leave To Remain(2013)

A unique drama based on the true stories of a group of teenagers seeking asylum in the UK.

Also set in the UK, this uplifting drama follows the process of seeking asylum through the character of Omar, a teenage boy from Afghan in a Barking detention centre waiting for the result of his refugee application.

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Human Flow

Cert12A

Age group14+

Duration140 mins

Human Flow(2017)

Documentary by artist Ai Weiwei about the global refugee crisis of the 21st century.

This powerful and visually striking documentary depicts the scale of migration and the great lengths people are forced to take for survival. The film depicts tough realities while also portraying personal stories of resistance.

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