UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has launched the first ever Refugee Film Festival in the Philippines which will be featuring six films focused on the extraordinary stories of the forcibly displaced.
With the theme ‘Hope Away From Home,’ the 1st Refugee Film Festival organized by UNHCR in partnership with the University of the Philippines Asian Center and the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) runs from 20-22 June at the UPFI Film Center in the University of the Philippines Diliman.
Opening the Film Festival is Quezon’s Game by Matthew Rosen, a biographical film set in 1938 that follows the story of Philippine President Manuel Quezon and several other notable figures as they set out to rescue Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution. This humanitarian legacy of the Philippines opening its doors to refugees fleeing war and persecution began since the early 1920s and continues to this very day.
Other films in the Refugee Film Festival are Flee by Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Wandering, A Rohingya Story by Mélanie Carrier and Olivier Higgins,’ Captains of Zaatari by Ali El Arabi, A House in Pieces by Jean Claire Dy and Manuel Domes, and The Swimmers by Sally El Hosain
“Our hope is that the Refugee Film Festival will raise awareness among more Filipinos on the plight and rights of those forced to flee,” said UNHCR Philippines Head of National Office Maria Ermina Valdeavilla-Gallardo.
Multi-awarded broadcast journalist Atom Araullo also marked his fourth year as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador during the launch and called for fellow journalists and Filipinos to support the activities planned for World Refugee Day this year.
“Thank you to UNHCR for this opportunity to continue advocating for the protection of the forcibly displaced. As Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR Philippines, I have had the honor and privilege of documenting and sharing to the world such important and compelling stories of survival and hope. As I mark my fourth year as Goodwill Ambassador, I hope that more Filipinos will become aware of these realities and stand in solidarity with people forced to flee,” said Atom.
“We are grateful that Atom continues to lend his storytelling expertise to shine a light on the plight of refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced, and those who are stateless and at risk of statelessness,” said Valdeavilla-Gallardo.
Atom began advocating for people forced to flee as a High-Profile Supporter in 2017 and was appointed UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in 2019. Joining UNHCR’s field missions and protection monitoring work for internally displaced persons in Mindanao, Atom has personally witnessed the strength and resilience of the most vulnerable communities in the face of multiple crises. He has also visited Azraq refugee camp in Jordan and Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh, where he contributed to the efforts of drawing attention to the Syrian and Rohingya refugee crises, respectively.
Also present during the launch were representatives of the partner agencies of the UNHCR including State Counsel Alden Luna of the Department of Justice – Refugees and Stateless Persons Protection Unit, UP Asian Center Dean Dr. Henelito Sevilla, Jr., and Executive Director Romeo Dongeto of Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD).
“The Refugee Film Festival serves as a good eye-opener to the current global refugee crises and the importance of fostering a climate of acceptance, compassion, and inclusion in the world. As a partner of UNHCR Philippines, we are committed to advancing the institutionalization of policies and laws that safeguard the rights of forcibly displaced and stateless people through legislation,” said Dongeto.
With the speed and scale of global forced displacement outpacing long-term solutions, there is a need to continue working together to advocate for inclusion and opportunities that will provide refugees with better chances of survival.