June 20, 2020 is World Refugee Day as established by the United Nations in 2000 to shine a light on our global refugee crisis. Today, more than 70 million people are forcibly displaced from their home country with over half coming from Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar, and Somalia. Independent filmmakers from around the world have given voice to those with no voice and no home. Here are five of the best.
Out now and self-distributed on VOD, Bill Gallagher’s Runner uses interviews and animation to tell the story of Sudanese runner Guor Mading Maker, who at eight-years-old, fled South Sudan to the United States. Kyle Bain says Runner exemplifies, “the power of will and one’s ability to overcome unparalleled hurdles.” Chris Gore spoke with Gallagher about how he pieced Ghor’s story together.
When the Taliban puts a bounty on Afghan director Hassan Fazili’s head, he is forced to flee with his wife and two young daughters. Capturing their uncertain journey, Fazili shows firsthand the dangers facing refugees seeking asylum and the love shared between a family on the run. Alex Saveliev extols Fazili’s unique story…”Shooting on iPhones these days is a nifty gimmick if done right…but in Midnight Traveler it’s no gimmick – it’s Hassan’s only choice.”
The war on drugs inadvertently created a refugee crisis south of the border in the border community of the Juárez Valley. In just a few years, the cartels took over the valley and reduced its population from 25,000 to 1,000. The remaining survivors tell their story for director Marcela Arteaga in her documentary, The Guardian of Memory (El Guardián de la Memoria). Alan Ng says, “Arteaga tells this dark tale through the oral history of the survivors, in other words, through talking-head interviews. All with the intent to document an event before it vanishes from the town’s conscious memory.”
Karl Markovics’ Nobadi is one eff-up story of an unlikely elderly man looking for help from an Afghani refugee to remove a tree stump in his garden. The Austrian man is able to find compassion for the refugee, even though he did feed him dog food for lunch. The film’s final thirty minutes is a hard watch. Alan Ng says, “it takes such a turn that it actually caused several members of the audience to walk out.”
From Tribeca comes the pseudo-documentary Wake Up on Mars. With the threat of deportation, the film’s subject Jurkhan’s two sisters fall into a deep coma due to the intense stress they face. Alex Saveliev‘s describes Dea Gjinovci’s approach to his storytelling as “mixing a grave reality with a childlike, hopeful, fantasy perspective – in principle shouldn’t work, but it does.”