CHENNAI: When I learned that the field office of United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) along with Loyola College and Tamil Nadu tourism was hosting a three-day film screening of powerful films on refugees, as a prelude to World Refugee Day, I was thrilled. Of the three movies, Hotel Rwanda, Warehoused and A Syrian Love Story, I chose to watch the latter.
The lights went out at the screening hall in Tagore Film Center, and along with 30-odd people, I watched the heart-rending love story of two Syrian revolutionaries, which was shot in a span of five years by Sean McAllister. The 76-minute intense documentary took us through the life of Amer Daoud and Raghda Hassan’s life in prison and exile, their family, unusual romance, disintegrating marriage and their love among the ruins.
The film and the screening did exactly what it had set out to achieve — making people aware, sensitive about the lives of the numerous people in exile and changing the way we look at refugees. It took us back to what Peter Bradshaw had written in his review of A Syrian Love Story, for The Guardian: ‘McAllister shows us the human cost of a geopolitical tragedy; he shows us that refugees are not just nameless pathetic mendicants whose only desire is pity.’
On the sidelines of the screening, an official member of the organising committee said, “World Refugee Day is commemorated every year to celebrate the power and resilience the refugees have shown, despite the problems they have faced. Apart from giving durable solutions, we want to sensitise the public and dispel the myths about them.”
The three-day event created an avenue for the public to lend a helping hand. “When a Sudanese student-refugee shared his plight of being unable to repay his college fee of `3 lakh, a member of the audience stepped in to pay half the fees. This is the kind of connect we want to build,” said the official.
“Such conversations on the lives of refugees life can kindle the public’s interest to know more. This way, the refugees can receive help too. The response has been extremely welcoming and we want the public, NGOs and corporate to understand the real issues of these people in exile and help in whatever capacity they can,” added the official.