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The refugee documentary “7 lives, 7 stories” available online after its successful launch

09 February 2018

©UNHCR Cyprus
Refugees who produced their stories on video address the audience at the launching event on 7 February in Nicosia.

On Wednesday evening UNHCR Cyprus launched the documentary ‘7 lives, 7 stories’ at Cine Studio, Nicosia. The film merges seven distinct stories produced, as part of a UNHCR project, by Abdul, Babucar, Eskandar, Fatima, Laeticia, Rosa and Yanick; individuals aged from 18-30 living in Cyprus as asylum-seekers and refugees. With the support of professional trainers, the refugees who are coming from various countries torn by war, conflict and human rights violations, developed their story line; did the film shooting; became interviewers and interviewees; and produced their stories.

“No one chooses to be a refugee. Circumstances beyond their control force people to flee their country, and this can happen to anyone,” said Babucar, 18 from The Gambia, in addressing a large and engaged audience that was humbled by refugee’s stories of loss, but also of perseverance and courage.

Eskandar, a Syrian refugee in his mid- twenties from war-torn Aleppo, who is now rebuilding his life in Cyprus, working full-time and pursuing a Master’s degree, said: “Try to be grateful every day for what you have – water, electricity, education – because one day these things can be gone. We tend to take things for granted. Try to learn every day from the person next to you. That’s what matters.”

 “We have dreams and we want to be part of the society. We want to contribute to the socioeconomic development of our second home in order to show our appreciation for their welcoming and acknowledge their generosity in providing us a safe place to live,” Babucar said and made a plea to all governments, on behalf of the millions of refugee children all over the world, for the opportunity for refugees to be allowed to explore their potential.

“We would like the opportunity to reach our dreams,” he said. 

The event was hosted by the University of Nicosia (UNIC), with whom UNHCR Cyprus has developed a partnership agreement to support refugee education and the wider cause. “UNIC is always a safe haven for people coming from diverse backgrounds irrespective of their colour, gender, race, sexual orientation… Our philosophy is to empower individuals from different ethnic backgrounds to reach their full potential in becoming better citizens in our society,” said Vice Rector for Faculty and Research of the UNIC, Professor Constantinos Phellas in his welcoming remarks.

UNHCR initiated this project to support refugees’ efforts in integrating into the local society and start feeling they belong. Empowering refugees to share their stories and perspectives on their current lives in Cyprus with the wider public can help in bringing together refugee and local communities.

“Each refugee participant, with the help of other participants, made one short 2-3 minute video and then with [our] guidance decided the concept, wrote a script, created a shot list, filmed using professional cameras, edited their story and added the music,” explains David Hands, one of the professionals involved in the project.

The importance of employment, education, family unity especially in the case of unaccompanied and separated children, feelings of frustration and uncertainty caused by long asylum procedures, lack of meaningful and productive activities; are some of the issues raised by refugees in their video stories. Issues that are common for many refugees, in Cyprus and elsewhere.

In a brave and emotional address after the screening, Fatima told the audience that she came to Cyprus as a child, alone, without her family. “Every child requires affection, understanding, a feeling of belonging and love, something I feel I don’t have,” she said. “I would like to call on host countries across the world to do their utmost best to re-unite children with their families in the soonest possible time. This is what I wish for myself and all unaccompanied children in the world.”

David Hands and Melissa Hekkers, the professional trainers and producers who guided refugees in their film-making journey, shared their insight with the audience: “Bonds have been formed, friendships that will last a lifetime have been created and we have all learned more about ourselves and the society we live in,” David underscored and Melissa added: “ Having been part of this project has reminded me of how fortunate I am and how simple, at times, it can be to extend a hand, how important it is listen and be aware of the people living amongst us.”

The empowering effect the project had on some of the participants was evident at the launching where participants addressed the audience – a daunting feat in itself - in English and in Greek; languages that are new to them, and they are learning to master.

Thanking everyone for the opportunity given to her and the kindness she has received, Laeticia, a resourceful asylum-seeker, in her twenties, from Cameroon said, “I never knew there were so many people in this world with such big hearts.”

Members of the audience showed their appreciation and empathy with their warm applause, congratulating the participants not only for the film, but for their individual courage, resilience and determination. “It is an absolute privilege to work with refugees,” said Gosia from Caritas, Nicosia.

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The ‘7 lives 7 stories’ documentary as well as the individual video stories of each refugee participant are available on UNHCR Cyprus youtube channel.

 Playlist in English: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLu-SjK7MrpZNKzwixQvnIqvCNYZnL1Bxg

 Playlist in Greek: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLu-SjK7MrpZO0nPbzG6AE18UAvhcjursO

 

Viewers are encouraged to share and/or use the film and/or individual videos in activities promoting the refugee cause. 

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