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Monday 15 June, 2020

While much of the world has come to a standstill, the crisis has not stopped for people who have had to flee their homes.

Marking Refugee Week, we are turning the spotlight on documentaries following people seeking refuge, who have taken on extraordinary journeys with the hope of finding safety in a new country. 

This list of docs to watch online offers many different persepctives and a host of moving human stories from across the world.

On Friday, we are showing Debra Kellner's  Inside My Heart + Q&A in partnership with the High Comission of Canada in the UK.


Fire At Sea / Gianfranco Rosi / 2016  / 118 mins

Winner of the Golden Bear for Best Film at the Berlin Film Festival 2016, Gianfranco Rosi’s incisive, poignant and deeply moving portrait of the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa - and the humanitarian crisis occurring in the seas around it - is both a masterly work of documentary filmmaking and a timely call for urgent action.

After spending months living on the island, Rosi accumulated an incredible array of footage, portraying the history, culture and daily lives of the islanders.

The result is a lyrical and poetic film that casts neither judgement nor aspersions, but simply shows the world to the viewer - to devastating effect.

You can watch FIRE AT SEA on Amazon Prime, Google Play or YouTube

DocHouse has hosted a Q&A with the director, you can watch it here.

Midnight Traveller / Hassan Fazili / 2019  / 87 mins

When his life is threatened by the Taliban, filmmaker Hassan Fazili goes on the run with his wife and two small daughters. Shooting on their mobile phones, the family takes us with them on a harrowing and gruelling journey, through many countries, trying to find asylum.

A festival favourite, Midnight Traveler places us inside the refugee journey, in its waves of danger, tedium, exhaustion and tenderness. As the family endures endless walks, refugee camps, duplicitous smugglers and filthy accommodation, they are constantly at the mercy of forces far beyond their control.

A moving reminder that family life goes on even in the most difficult of circumstances.

You can watch MIDNIGHT TRAVELLER on Curzon Home CinemaAmazon Prime, Google PlayYouTube , iTunes or Sky Store


A Syrian Love Story / Sean McAllister / 2015  / 80 mins

Comrades and lovers Amer and Raghda met in a Syrian prison cell 15 years ago.

When Sean McAllister first meets their family in 2009, Raghda is back in prison, leaving Amer to look after their 4 boys alone; but as the ‘Arab Spring’ sweeps the region, the family’s fate shifts irrevocably.

Filmed over five years, A Syrian Love Story charts their incredible odyssey to political freedom. For Raghda and Amer, it is a journey of hope, dreams and despair: for the revolution, their homeland and each other. 

Known for his unique and intimate portraits, maverick director Sean McAllister received the Grand Jury prize at the 2015 Sheffield Doc/Fest for this “Bergmanesque portrait of a relationship and love”. 

You can watch A SYRIAN LOVE STORY on Google Play, YouTube, Amazon Prime or iTunes.

DocHouse hosted a Q&A with director Sean McAllister and protaganist Amer Daoud, watch it here.

SKY and ground / Talya Tibbon & Joshua Bennett / 2017  / 86 mins

The Nabi family have fled Syria and are living in a refugee camp near Thessaloniki in appalling conditions – they need to get out. Starting out from Aleppo, Syria, they attempt to make their way to Berlin – on foot.

We accompany the Nabi family as they trek through the woods, camp and try to hide from the police. As they encounter relentless setbacks and obstacles, the challenge of moving your entire family, including the elderly and less mobile, becomes a tense and astounding feat to witness.

Travelling from Greece, to Macedonia, to Serbia and beyond, Sky & Ground is a deeply powerful diary of a precarious journey, and a courageous family.

You can watch SKY AND GROUND on Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play

DocHouse hosted a post-screening Q&A with the director, watch it here.

ISLAND OF THE HUNGRY GHOSTS / Gabrielle Brady / 2018  / 94 mins

Winner of Best Documentary Feature at Tribeca 2018 Island of the Hungry Ghosts is a beautifully evocative, multilayered exploration of a place: Australia’s Christmas Island, which warehouses refugees for indeterminate lengths of time, in brutal conditions.

Filmmaker Gabrielle Brady follows Poh Lin, a trauma counsellor for the asylum seekers, shining a compassionate light on the plight of the island’s disempowered inmates. 

You can watch ISLAND OF THE HUNGRY GHOSTS on MUBI, BFI Player, or Amazon Prime

ANOTHER NEWS STORY / Orban Wallace / 2017 / 84 mins

Since 2015, the 'refugee crisis' has flooded every news and media outlet across the globe. Starting at the beach on Lesbos, Another News Story follows the route across Europe that thousands are taking, turning the camera on the caravan of international journalists and the role they play in representing the crisis to the world.

Director Orban Wallace travels across Hungary and Croatia, through camps and across borders, meeting not just refugees like Syrian mother Mahasen, but also the media who are never far away. Their priority is to distil the story and make it digestible to their viewers back home; to make a situation clear and compelling; to wait look for the 'interesting' moments. 

Another News Story gives a new perspective on a much-covered situation, raising important questions about what happens behind the camera, and how the life cycle of a news story starts and grows.

You can watch ANOTHER NEWS STORY on iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, Amazon Prime


69 Minutes of 86 Days / Egil Haaskjold Larsen /  2017 / 71 minS

On a path littered with lifejackets, in the middle of a crowd of people on the run, a 3-year-old girl slowly emerges. Full of a child’s energy and curiosity, carrying her little “Frost” backpack on her back, she takes in her surroundings between hundreds of adult trouser legs.

Following Lean and her family's gruelling 86-day journey to Sweden, what marks out Egil Haaskjold Larsen's observational documentary is that their journey is shown from little Lean's perspective: boats, cars and buses can be filled with excitement as well as boredom, there is laughter and wonder, there is running and there is endless waiting. Meanwhile, the anxiety, fear and exhaustion is etched on the faces of the adults around her. 

Watch 69 MINUTES OF 86 DAYS on Google Play, Amazon Prime, YouTube


Uyghurs, Prisoners of the Absurd / Patricio Henriquez / 2015 / 99 minS

This deeply disturbing documentary tells the story of 22 Uyghur men from China’s persecuted minority living in Xinjiang province.

Fleeing oppression, they escaped to Afghanistan where they were captured, sold and then imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay as terrorists. Held for over a decade without trial, the Uyghurs were tortured and kept in appalling conditions until at last they were proved innocent and released.

Spanning more than a decade, Patricio Henriquez’s film documents the legal saga surrounding the group, tragically cheated by history. And all the while, in the shadows and at a distance, China keeps a close eye.

You can watch UYGHURS, PRISONERS OF THE ABSURD on Amazon Prime

Those Who Jump / Moritz Siebert, Estephan Wagner , Abou Bakar Sidibé / 2016  / 80 mins

'A masterpiece of empathy and moral imagination.' - Joshua Oppenheimer

Malian refugee Abou and his friends stand on a sparse Moroccan hillside looking out at the tiny Spanish enclave of Melilla. All that stands between them and Europe are three towering fences.

German filmmakers Moritz Siebert and Estephan Wagner entrusted Abou with a camera to film life in the makeshift camp the men call home. From the inside, Abou casually captures the danger and the camaraderie, the boredom and the hope, the quasi-normality and the extraordinary singularity of life in this limbo land.

Forget the headlines, the statistics, and the politics of global migration: through Abou’s lens, the desperation of tens of thousands of refugees to reach Europe becomes tangible and deeply moving.

You can watch THOSE WHO JUMP on Google Play, Amazon Prime, YouTube

DocHouse hosted a Q&A with co-director Moritz Siebert watch it on our Online Hub here. 

The Border fence / Nikolaus geyrhalter / 2018 / 120 minS

Brenner Pass, Alpine border, spring 2016: the Austrian government announces the construction of a border fence, expecting a shift of the refugee routes to Italy after the Balkan route is closed. The residents fear the fence just as much as the supposedly threatening influx of foreigners to their homeland.

Two years later, the fence is still rolled up in a container, as the inrush of refugees never occurred.

You can watch THE BORDER FENCE on Vimeo On Demand

Callshop Istanbul / SAmi Mermer & Hind Benchekroun / 2015  / 98 mins

Istanbul, a metropolis at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, has always been a way station for the merchants and travellers of the world. Today, for migrants from Africa and the Middle East, it is a gateway to the promised land of Europe.

Syrian and Iraqi refugees, cosmopolitan youth seeking a better future, disillusioned 'Arab Spring' supporters and undocumented migrants from Africa all congregate in cramped hives of activity: the city’s callshops. 

A powerful testament to the migrant’s experience in the 21st Century, this extraordinary documentary steps inside Istanbul’s many callshops, revealing a vital link to loved ones back home.

You can watch CALLSHOP ISTANBUL on GuideDoc.