Whether it be the plight of the Rohingya or the humanitarian situation in Syria, refugeecrises are never far from the news. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as of the end of 2016, the number of people who had been forcibly displaced was more than 60 million, with some 20 million having fled across international borders to seek protection.
“A shelter – whether it’s a tent, a makeshift structure or a house – is the basic building block for refugees to survive and recover from the physical and mental effects of violence and persecution,” says Sivanka Dhanapala, the UNHCR’s representative in China. “But around the world, millions are struggling to cope in inadequate and often dangerous dwellings, putting their lives, dignity and futures at risk.”
To help raise funds for UNHCR, the annual Refugee Film Festival returns to Hong Kong for its 11th run, aiming not only to raise awareness but to mobilise practical support.
Proceeds from ticket sales will support the UN agency’s Nobody Left Outside campaign, which was launched in 2016 and so far has assisted more than 853,000 displaced people. Each ticket purchase will provide a family of five with sleeping mats at temporary homes in refugee shelters worldwide.
This year’s festival comprises four documentaries (screened at various locations), including After Spring (2016), co-directed by Hong Kong-born Steph Ching, which, set in Zaatari camp, in Jordan, follows two refugee families. Born in Syria (2016) chronicles refugee children moving across Europe while Warehoused (2017) looks at the lives of long-term residents of the world’s second-largest refugee camp, Dadaab, in Kenya.
The festival closes with The Baulkham Hills African Ladies Troupe (2016), an uplifting tale of four African-Australian women, all former refugees and victims of sexual violence, who tell their stories in a professional theatre production. The film’s director, Ros Horin, will be in Hong Kong for the closing of the festival (on World Refugee Day, June 20) and take part in a Q&A session after the screening.
The Refugee Film Festival runs from Thursday to June 20. For further details, visit unhcr.org.