Three journeys in film

It’s often difficult for us to understand the multifaceted experiences of the young refugees and asylum seekers we engage with, as they all have unique stories and have undergone unique journeys to arrive in the UK.

With this in mind we thought we’d share with you three incredible films that all reflect aspects of the stories of the young people we work with, but in different ways.

We have chosen these three films as they represent the three different journeys that are the most common amongst our young people; the perilous journey to the UK, the journey of re-orientation and location in a new country and culture, and the heartbreaking journey of deportation back to a country of origin.

In this world (2002)

This docudrama directed by Michael Winterbottom follows two young Afghan refugees on their journey to safety from a refugee camp in Pakistan. Jamal and Enayatullah travel through Iran, Turkey, and France in their goal to reach London, forcing them to pay people smugglers, bribe officials, and take incredible risks.

One of the most illuminating aspects of the film is its continued connection between the boys and their families in Pakistan, showing the pain and desperation that many in the Afghan refugee community feel about sending their sons on such a dangerous journey. Despite the huge cost and risks involved, thousands continue to take this journey in the hope of a better life.

We are lucky enough to have a copy of this on DVD (a bargain at £5.99!) but if you can’t wait that long then you can watch it online via Top Documentary Films (just don’t read the text above the film as it gives some of the plot away). There's also a fascinating interview with the Director available on the Guardian's website.

Viewers might be interested to know that after returning to Pakistan, the actor playing Jamal made the journey to the UK for real and applied for asylum. He is now living with a family in East Sussex, and was granted leave to remain until his 18th birthday. 


Moving to Mars: A million miles from Burma (2009)


Every year, up to 750 of the world’s most vulnerable refugees are resettled in the UK through the Government’s Gateway Protection Programme in partnership with UNHCR.

Moving to Mars follows two such families, refugees from Burma, over the course of a year that changes their lives completely as they move from a Thai refugee camp to Sheffield. The documentary by Mat Whitecross shows the families’ struggles and joys of integrating into British society, and the perspective of  the children of these families. Tu Wah is 19, and hopes that in moving to the UK he will be able to get a better education.

The journey that these families go through in learning to adapt to a new culture and surroundings is one that we see the young asylum seekers and refugees that we work with go through, and this film provides valuable insight into this process.

The film website has more information about its context, and where to buy the DVD.


Hamedullah: The Road Home (2011)


Sue Clayton’s film is the story of Hamedullah Hassany, a young teenager who fled to the UK from Afghanistan and lived in Canterbury until he turned 18. He was arrested in a dawn raid and held in detention before being forcibly returned to a conflict zone which no longer felt like home.

Hamedullah takes a camera with him, and the film documents his forced relocation and attempts to reintegrate into society with no friends, family or home.

It is unknown how many unaccompanied asylum seeking minors undergo this journey every year, and until now there has been no attempt to track the young boys (and girls) after deportation. No one knows what happens to them.

This film is a compelling and valuable contribution to the debate surrounding the deportation of unaccompanied asylum seeking children once they reach the age of 18, and in the words of the filmmaker:

“It should be compulsory viewing for all those concerned about young people, about human rights and about the attitude of our elected government to the welfare of those who are still effectively children, whose case was never adequately heard in court, and whose humiliating and desperate exit- from a cargo terminal, in the middle of the night- must be challenged, and the true story of their return told.”

With one of our young people undergoing this process currently, we can vouch for the reality depicted in the film.


We would love to know your thoughts and comments on these films, so please get in touch with us by email, facebook or twitter. What are your favourite films about young asylum seekers and refugees?