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The plight of refugees is one of the most urgent issues facing us around the world, whether that be as a result of crises in Syria, Afghanistan or most recently from the Russian war with Ukraine; all of which have seen huge numbers of people attempting to find safe passage out of their countries and settle elsewhere.
Film is a uniquely effective tool for approaching such a complex subject with pupils, as it is an accessible format for young people all ages and abilities that also centres the perspectives of refugees and creates a greater sense of empathy. Short film in particular allows teachers to make use of limited lesson time to broach the subject in a wide range of contexts, so we've collected four short titles below that can be watched by UK teachers for free* on Into Film+.
We will be releasing a more extensive list of films and resources at the end of May in the lead up to Refugee Week 2022 (20-26 June), which has the theme of 'Healing' this year.
A young woman shares her experience as a migrant, travelling from Africa through to a Calais refugee camp known as ‘The Jungle' in December 2009. Initially shocked to be spending Christmas with a community of total strangers united only by their need to find a safe place for refuge she soon learns the stories of those around her. This animated autobiographical account of a refugee's story is an intimate and moving short film which provides an empathetic perspective on immigration and citizenship.
Two polar bears a parent and child are forced to flee their Arctic home due to the melting ice caused by climate change. Their journey to find a new place to live sees them discover a forest community of brown bears. However, they don't receive the welcome they expect and find it difficult to survive in their hostile new surroundings. This 3D computer animated short film doesn't shy away from reflecting the harsh reality of many refugees' and migrants' stories, depicting how these people are regularly persecuted by wider society.
Esperança had to flee Angola with her mother after her father was taken away for launching an investigation into a corrupt political party. In this short film she recounts her experience of arriving in France, the process of finding refuge and the struggles she faced as she tried to adapt into a new culture and life. This striking hand drawn animation offers genuine insight into the experience of a young refugee and space to discuss navigating change from a unique perspective.
Somewhere in Mexico, a man smuggles a girl on top of a train with the name of ‘La Bestia', injuring his leg in the process. As the train journey continues and the two travelers start to share sweet moments of friendship, the man's injury begins to affect the way he views the train, seeing it morph into a terrifying monster hurtling towards its destination. Will the two of them make it to the end of their journey in one piece? Creatively animated, La Bestia is a gripping road movie that explores themes of immigration and responsibility the credits dedicate the film "to everyone looking for an opportunity".
Head to our Refugees and Migration theme page for much more material on the subject, including our Doc Academy resources around the film Exodus, which includes a Forced Migration Toolkit to help students reflect on issues around refugees, whilst also inspiring them to engage with social action and advocacy.
*Screenings for an entertainment or extra-curricular purpose require a PVS (Public Video Screening) Licence from Filmbankmedia. State-funded schools in England are covered by the PVS Licence.
Straddling the line between comedy and drama, British film Limbo uses three dimensional characters and wry humour to tell a new kind of refugee story
Reading time 5 mins
Ahead of Refugee Week (19 - 25 June) Judith Dennis of the Refugee Council suggests ways of bringing incredible stories of young refugees into the classroom.
Reading time 3 mins
Our resources on films such as 'The Breadwinner' and 'He Named Me Malala' can be extremely useful in helping young audiences understand a complex issue.
Reading time 8 mins
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