International Migration Film Festival Lineup Provides Insight on Plight of Refugees From Different Prisms

For its first edition the International Migration Film Festival has assembled a diverse lineup of eight titles tackling the plight of refugees and migrants around the world and running the gamut from feelgood comedy to gut-wrenching dramas and docs.

They will vie for a best feature film award worth €15,000 ($16,800) and also a prize for most inspiring script worth €5,000 ($5,625), both to be decided by a prestigious international jury comprising Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan, who serves as jury president, American actor Danny Glover, Iranian actor Shahab Hosseini, Bosnian actor Emir Hadzihafizbegovic, Danish filmmaker Lone Scherfig, and British costume designer Sandy Powell.

The selection, which will be visible in Turkey June 14-21 on the FestivalScope platform, serves as a nice primer of recent pics tackling the topic, but also as “a reminder to not let people forget about refugees” during this time when the coronavirus pandemic – which has also greatly added to the refugees’ woes – has become such a dominant concern, says programing director Hulya Sungu. The festival will also feature masterclasses by top talents on its website with global access.

Here are the films in the running:

“The Merger” Australian director Mark Grentell’s feelgood comedy is about a soccer club in rural Australia which becomes a battleground against xenophobia when several refugees, including one from Syria, join the club and gradually becomes its main asset, both on and off the pitch.

“Midnight Traveller” Shot entirely on smartphones over the course of three years by Afghan director Hassan Fazili, this potent doc, which screened at Sundance and other fests, charts his family’s dangerous trek as they flee from the Taliban going from one place to the next while seeking sanctuary in Europe.

“Scent of my Daughter” In this drama directed by Turkey’s Olgun Özdemir, the 2016 Taliban terror attack in Nice prompts the lives of three strangers to intersect in a humanistic adventure set against the backdrop of refugee camps in Turkey near the Syrian border.

“Just Like My Son” This second feature by Italian director Costanza Quatriglio is about the plight of an Afghan teenage boy who arrives in Italy after escaping civil wars and the Taliban, and is searching for his estranged mother who has also left their homeland. It was the first Italian production to be shot in Iran in more than 50 years.

“Omar and Us” (pictured) The film is about a retired Turkish coast guard captain with family issues who overcomes his prejudices and decides to help his neighbors who are two Syrian refugees. Directed by Maryna Er Gorbach and Mehmet Bahadir Er, and starring two professional Syrian actors – Taj Sher Yakub, who plays Omar, and Hala Alsayasneh – who both live in Turkey under temporary immigration status.

“Oskar & Lilli” Directed by Vienna-based Iranian director Arash T. Riahi, this family drama depicts the plight of Chechen refugee kids Oskar (8) and Lilli (13), who have been living in Austria for six years, and are about to be deported with their mother from whom they are forcefully separated. Together, the siblings fight against Austrian bureaucracy.

“Rafael” Dutch director Ben Sombogaart’s romantic drama is based on the true story of a pregnant Dutch hairdresser who travels to Sicily to free her Tunisian husband who is held in a camp for illegal migrants on the island of Lampedusa.

For Sama This candid Syrian civil war diary directed by Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts offers a rare window into a woman’s experience of the Syrian conflict. A love letter from a young mother (Waad al-Kateab) to her daughter, it recounts her life over five years of the uprising in Aleppo, Syria, as she falls in love, gets married and gives birth to Sama, all amid the cataclysmic conflict. This doc has won many prizes after launching from Cannes last year, and was nominated for an Oscar.