This year, Sharjah International Film Festival for Children and Youth highlights the issue by showcasing the indomitable spirit of stateless children and youth.
Stories of young refugees from the region and around the world will be on reel at the Sharjah International Film Festival for Children and Youth (SIFF) 2019, taking place at the Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre (JRCC), October 13 – 18. Among eight short documentaries, which highlight the challenges of statelessness posed on community’s youngest members, is an SIFF original production titled”.
The 2019 production, directed by LA filmmaker Marco Bollinger, is a 20-minute documentary portraying the everyday lives of a group of adolescent girls Bollinger met at the Saadnayel refugee camp in Lebanon four years ago. He has returned to the camp to teach a video storytelling workshop. The young protagonists of the film have shot much of it themselves, interviewing each other and co-directing with Marco to create a unique perspective on their own lives.
Turning away from the typical refugee story of trauma and pity, the film delves into showcasing who this next generation of Syrian women are becoming, aided by the strength and perspective which has carried them through their exile experience.
Sheikha Jawaher bint Abdullah Al Qasimi, Director of FUNN, the Sharjah-based organisation that promotes media arts learning among children and youth, and SIFF, commented: “Every year, we dedicate the festival platform to familiarise the young audience with stories of people who are forced to flee their own homes because they are no longer safe in there. The inclusion of films with social messages stems from our belief that the young generation should learn about the absolute irrationality of the displacement crisis, and also realise how fortunate they are compared to millions are in their age group”.
“Through these films, SIFF’s objective is to deliver crucial messages to our children and youth. First, arts’ predisposition towards humankind, justice and rights, and its effectiveness as a tool to raise awareness and alter perceptions. Second, the films are an example of how far the qualities of faith, persistence and patience can take us. Our selection of films this year, including SIFF’s original production, showcase the universal quality possessed by human beings irrespective of age, culture or qualification – our power to make every odd bow down to our inner strength,” she added.
Seven UNHCR productions will bring to light the indomitable spirit of young refugees.
SIFF 2019 will screen seven short UNHCR productions, made between 2017–19 that highlight the stories of displaced children and youth around the world, Lebanon to Kurdistan, Somalia to Iran and beyond who have rebuilt their lives successfully in host nations.
From success stories of 11 children who received their citizenship certificates in Ivory Coast in 2018 following ECOWAS Member States’ commitment to eradicate statelessness in the documentary Ivorian Orphan Girls Beat Back Statelessness to Spend a Day with Bertine, which offers a five-minute summarisation of Bertine Bahige’s life journey from when he fled the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at age 13 to becoming an elementary school principal in Wyoming, USA, and Somali YouTuber in Iceland Inspires Young Girls Globally, which is the story of Najmo – a child bride who escapes journeys through the Sahara alone, determined to change her fate.
Soccer Player Sets Goal for Bosnian Life, Do You Remember Your Childhood Dreams?, and Blind Refugee Brothers Succeed at School are also in the list of UNHCR productions to be shown at the festival.
Additionally, two independent films will be screened during the festival. Bachir in Wonderland, by Dutch producer Evelien Vehof, is narrated by the 10-year-old Bachir who spent his life in a refugee camp in the Western Sahara. Meanwhile, Dance Is My Gun by Peruvian-American Marco Bollinger, tells the story of a Syrian refugee who happens to be a trained ballet dancer.