As recent global headlines attest, we’re in the middle of a global refugee crisis. Right now, there are some 60 million people displaced from their homes .We’re living in what many call “the age of the refugee.” So here are thirteen films and documentaries about the refugee and asylum seeker experience. Films and documentaries about refugees can inspire you to learn more and provoke you to take some real action.
1. Casablanca (1942)
Director: Michael Curtiz
One of the greatest Hollywood films and a surprisingly hard-nosed portrait of life in wartime, especially for those fleeing Nazi occupation. The “tortuous, roundabout trail of refugees” culminates in the film’s stylized Morocco; some can afford exit visas from the black marketeers (who, of course, gather every night at Rick’s Café). ..“But the others wait in Casablanca… and wait… and wait.”
2. Into the Fire: The hidden Victims of Austerity in Greece (2013)
A hard hitting documentary which shows the plight of refugees and migrants in recession hit Athens. In times of severe austerity things look bleak for Greek people, but they’re far worse for those who have recently arrived. ..
Directed by Theo Angelopoulos
Language: Greek, English, Italian
A famous author (Alexander), reaching the end of his life, encounters a young Albanian refugee boy who is one of the thousands of ‘illegal immigrants’ from Eastern Europe coming into Greece. Alexander begins a quest to return the boy home.
4. In This World (2002)
Director: Michael Winterbottom
This extraordinary film follows the journey of two Afghan asylum seekers. Young Jamal and his older cousin Enayat attempt a treacherous overland odyssey from a Pakistani refugee camp to the promise of a better life in the UK in the hands of a network of people smugglers.
Language: Pushto | Persian | English | Turkish
5. Children of men (2006 )
Director: Duncan Jones
It’s 2027, and humans are no longer able to reproduce; the UK has become a fascist state in which asylum seekers fleeing worldwide anarchy are hunted down and forced to live in vast offshore penal colonies. So in other words, it’s pretty realistic.
6. Welcome, 2009
Director: Philippe Lioret
Language: French | Kurdish | English | Turkish
Bilal is 17 years old, a Kurdish boy from Iraq. He sets off on an adventure-filled journey across Europe. The film depicts the depressing real-life situation in Calais, where homeless refugees are dehumanized by police and citizens can actually be arrested and imprisoned for hosting or comforting them.
7. When I saw you 2012
Director: Annemarie Jacir
Language: Arabic | English
When 11 year old Tarek runs away to find his missing father, he stumbles onto a group of scruffy, charismatic, Marx-quoting, AK-47-toting freedom fighters training for the final battle they assume is coming. There he learns a thing or two about self-determination and brotherhood.
8. La pirogue (2012)
Language: French | Wolof | Spanish
A reluctant fisherman is hired to take a ragtag group of desperate souls to a new life in Spain across the North Atlantic in a nerve-wracking small and ill-equipped boat (the pirogue of the title). As the captain and his passengers face danger and diminishing hope on the high seas, it’s impossible not to feel for the thousands who attempt such odysseys in real life every year.
9. The Land Between (2014)
Director: David Fedele
Language: English | French
The Land Between documents the everyday life of Sub-Saharan African migrants trapped in limbo, as well as the extreme violence and constant mistreatment they face from both the Moroccan and Spanish authorities. It also explores the ultimate universal question; how and why people are prepared to risk everything, including their life, in search of a new and better life.
10. Kandahar (2001)
Directed by Monsen Makhmalbaf
Language: Persian | English | Pushto | Polish
This documentary-style film, is about a woman refugee from Afghanistan who is now a reporter in Canada. The story follows her as she returns to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in order to save her sister.
11. Pushing the Elephant (2010)
Directed by Beth Davenport and Elizabeth Mandel
The real story of Rose Mapendo from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). After the outbreak of a brutal civil war, Rose fled the DRC with her nine children but she was forced to leave her five-year-old daughter, Nangabire, behind. Twelve years later she is a successful advocate for refugees. She is advocating peace and helping numerous victims to rebuild their lives. But there is one person Rose must still help- her daughter Nangabire.
12. DISTRICT 9 (2009)
Director: Neil Blomkamp
Language: English Nyanja | Afrikaans | Zulu | Xhosa | Southern Sotho
Like Children of Men, this is science fiction with a clearer vision of our society than most docos. There’s plenty of real life in its grim, satirical depiction of a South African detention camp/shantytown, where thousands of alien refugees are kept in squalid conditions by the government. The “prawns” are stereotyped as lowlives, criminals, even terrorists, and are regularly beaten and killed by police.
13. LA JAULA DE ORO (2013)
Director: Diego Quemada-Díez
Language: Spanish | Tzotzil
A road movie for this global phenomenon. The long journey of teenage immigrants captured in with the hardest way.