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Documentary explores difficulty of refugees' resettlement

By Muath Freij - Jun 23,2018 - Last updated at Jun 23,2018

AMMAN — Having the documentary “This is Home” screened in Amman is very important because it takes a "humanising intimate approach" to the refugee crisis and can help people understand what it is like to be displaced, the movie’s director Alexandra Shiva said.

"This is Home", which was screened at Amman’s Rainbow Theatre for one week and was last shown over the weekend, gives an intimate portrait of four Syrian refugee families arriving in the US (Baltimore, Maryland), struggling to find their footing.

Displaced from their homes and separated from their loved ones, they are given eight months of assistance from the International Rescue Committee to become self-sufficient.

For the award-winning director, having the movie shown in Jordan is "exciting" as the film is important for any country welcoming refugees and dealing with resettlement.

Jordan currently hosts a total of 666,113 Syrian refugees, according to UNHCR figures published on May 24.

The movie came from an idea of HRH Princess Firyal, who is the movie’s executive producer, "out of her compassion and devotion to the cause of refugees", according to Shiva.

“My films are observational. I prefer not to use talking heads or experts, but to let the subjects speak for themselves and provide the audience with the chance to be inside the world of the subjects and walk along side of them,” she told The Jordan Times recently.

The filmmaker, who received the Peabody Award in 2015, said she prioritises direct human connection over politics in all her movies. 

“I believe that by getting as specific as possible and telling the stories of specific individuals, I can open a window into larger issues in a way that is approachable for a wide audience,” she stated. 

A refugee’s story isn’t over when they finally resettle. In many ways, it is just the beginning, according to Shiva, who noted “they must start over and completely rebuild their lives while also trying to process trauma and grief. I realised that, while there has been many films about the conflict in Syria, very few looked at this important stage. To really understand the full scope of the refugee crisis we must look at the entire journey.” 

She said that there are a number of challenges and obstacles ahead of any person seeking to resettle and adapt. “For the Syrians I followed, the language barrier was the greatest challenge; most of them spoke little to no English before they arrived. Not being able to communicate made finding a job so much more difficult and left them feeling isolated from their new neighbours,” she recounted.

For Shiva, the timing of the movie screening is also “significant”. 

“This movie is very timely. The debate over immigration is at the forefront of politics in both [the US] and Europe,” she highlighted.

She expressed hope that people from all political sides will see the movie and get to know these families as people.

“We need to focus on our shared humanity when we approach these divisive issues,” Shiva concluded.

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