Displacement & Resilience: women live for a new day IAWRT documentary 2018

Stories of Conflict, Migration and Exile

The IAWRT Documentary Film 2018 is a collaboration between women film makers from The Philippines, Tunisia, Canada and India. Executive producer, Chandita Mukherjee.

This documentary film is woven together with women refugees from around the world who find themselves internally displaced in their own countries, or are forced to flee their homeland.

Homeless in one's own land: indigenous refugees in The Philippines
This story shows the predicament faced by indigenous people in many parts of the world when natural resources are found or land for other profitable projects is identified, and they are forcibly displaced from their areas.

Powerful interests start moving to grab these lands. Laws protecting indigenous people and their environments are pushed aside and they are ousted from their traditional homelands. reduced to camping in temporary shelters, building their shacks from found materials

Governments do this to benefit global mining and plantation agriculture corporations, and build mines or hydroelectric projects, which condemn the indigenous people to become refugees in their own country.

We learn of the lives of two communities from Mindanao in the Phillipines, the Matigsalug and the Lumad people who now live as internal refugees.

In the name of national development, military force was used to force them to migrate and they are now abandoned. Cut off from the environment they know and with a lack of alternative means of livelihood in the places where they squat, they have become impoverished.

Their story is seen through the eyes of two articulate women chieftains, Bai Bibyaon of the Lumad community and Bai Ellen of the Matigsalug.

They are leading their communities, despite an intense climate of repression which creates a continuous state of tension and an uncertain future

However their morale is strong and the people are organised despite the attempts to terrorise.

Erika Rae Cruz, pictured interviewing Bai Bibyaon, is the director of this segment. She is a journalist, filmmaker, and activist from Manila, Philippines. Currently the Executive Director of Tudla Productions, an alternative media outlet, Erika also writes for alternative news site, Manila Today.

Keeping identity alive, when identity becomes politics
tibet beyond Dhauladhar mountains

This story is set in Dharamshala, north-east India, bordering on Tibet. Here Tibetan refugees have determinedly kept their language, culture and sense of nationhood alive. Since the exodus, of those who could not be subdued, began in 1959, they have organised in exile, and are ever-poised to negotiate a return to their homeland.

However, Chinese government policy works toward erasure of their culture - the ultimate form of repression. Their language is banned, their script is illegal and people can be arrested for speaking or teaching it or circulating print material in Tibetan.

The Tibetan government-in-exile is here and Dharamshala is home to a number of activists focusing on different aspects of Tibetan life and culture. Namgyal Dolkar Lhagyari, an elected member of the parliament of the Tibetan government-in-exile is the main protagonist in this segment.

Dharamshala is a city with a distinct Tibetan culture. New, yet recreated as a home that has been left behind, it is the seat of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's most important spiritual leader.

Namgyal and her colleagues in the Gu Chu Sum Association work to make the world aware of the struggles within Tibet and the human rights violations being carried out against Tibetan prisoners of conscience.

The endurance of the Tibetan refugees across six decades, holding strong to their focus of regaining their country, is unprecedented. The film gives us an intimate view of their life in exile.

Afrah Shafiq is the director of the segment on the Tibet movement for self-determination. She is from India, and works in the world of documentary film and visual art. She is sometimes an artist, filmmaker, researcher, editor and writer and at other times a manager, producer and facilitator. When not glued to a computer, she makes glass mosaics.

When the terror was unleashed, Rohingyas ran for shelter to neighbouring countries

Myanmar law does not recognise the Rohingya ethnic minority as an indigenous community.

Mostly confined to Rakhine state, the Rohingyas are denied freedom of movement, access to state education and entry to civil service jobs by law.

The status of the Rohingya has been widely compared to that of non-whites under apartheid.

When Myanyar security forces were unleashed, Rohingyas ran for shelter to neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka.

These governments just about tolerate them as refugees, but fence them into camps, and refuse to accept them as immigrants. They try to bring international pressure on Myanmar to take the Rohingyas back, which seems almost impossible at present.

Set in Rohingya encampments in the state of Haryana in India, this story brings us face to face with women’s accounts of their escape from violence at the hands of the Myanmar Army and vigilante groups.

Several of the Rohingyas met during the course of filming said they wanted to go back to their own country. But what is their future, a stateless people denied citizenship in their own land?

We also get a glimpse of the massive humanitarian activities of the UNHCR, with the Rohingyas, and other refugee populations through Sumbul Rizvi, The United Nations official coordinating the relief efforts at Cox's Bazaar, Bangladesh.

Co-director of the Rohingya segment, Archana Kapoor from India is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, broadcaster and social activist. She has documented the impact of disaster, displacement and conflict on women in her films. She runs Radio Mewat, a community radio station in Haryana, where some of the Rohingyas in India are settled.

the onset of the Syrian Civil War in 2011 has created a Syrian diaspora across countries around the Mediterranean Sea and further into Europe and North America.
people are becoming refugees, for reasons difficult to relate to their own lives

The Syrian crisis and the proxy war behind it, has disrupted the lives of millions and turned thriving cities to ruins. From an estimated pre-war population of 22 million, in 2016 the United Nations identified 13.5 million Syrians requiring humanitarian assistance. Over the course of the war, a number of peace initiatives have been launched, but fighting continues.

The protagonist of this story is Haifa Saad, a woman from Ghouta and her extended family – her children, parents, siblings and their children. When the war got too close to stay in Ghouta, they escaped on a ship and found refuge in Tunisia.

Shortly before they left, her husband was called out of his home by unknown persons and has since disappeared. Haifa tried very hard, but could not get to the truth of what happened to him.

Haifa waits for a Tunis bus to her work as part-time domestic help at several households, cooking and cleaning all day long, and returning to do the same in her own home.

She leads a very difficult and precarious existence. We get a close view of her struggle with depression and her effort to focus on her children and their education, and to bravely dream of a future, where her husband may even be found.

Khedija Lemkecher directs this portion of the IAWRT documentary about Haifa. She has directed documentary, fiction, commercials and television programmes. Her short films "The Night of the Blind Moon" and “Bolbol” have won several international awards. At present she is preparing for a feature film entitled "The Siren Tatoo."

What happens after the leap across the abyss?

How do displaced women in a new country, adapt to societies very different from theirs? When the home was their focus, there was no requirement to go out and mingle with outsiders in their countries of origin.

In Vancouver, Canada, how do they create meaningful interactions with local people, acquire new skills, learn to make a living and build new lives?

Hasne Sheikh, and a group of Syrian refugees tell their story of overcoming their isolation in a foreign land.

After a local Arabic speaking woman took the initiative, they started a food collective.

Their food collective is called Tayybeh, and it specialises in Syrian regional cuisines.

They reach out to the local community through their cooking and catering services at a variety of venues: large formal dinners, church meetings, and an outdoor farmer’s market. They also run a food truck.

In the process, they contribute to the cultural diversity of the area, gain new skills and develop the economic strengths needed to run a business.

They hope to learn English and educate their children. Some day they hope to be re-united with their loved ones, scattered in distant places around the globe; and maybe even return to Aleppo, Latakia and the other beloved places left behind.

In a filming break Syrian refugees Mariam, her mother Ragda and segment director, Eva Anandi Brownstein, record the moment.

Eva Anandi Brownstein is a documentary filmmaker based in Canada. Her work has taken her around the world – from Canada and India, to Rwanda and Haiti. She finds inspiration in giving voice to under-represented peoples and issues, and communicating stories of resilience.

Chandita Mukherjee is the Executive Producer of Displacement and Resilience: women live for a new day, and co-director of the Rohingya segment.

Chandita likes to explore the different ways that people understand the world and act on it. She tries to communicate this through her non-fiction film practice and to sensitise audiences through the self awareness such knowledge creates.

Displacement and Resilience: women live for a new day©IAWRT

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text: Chandita Mukherjee Created by: Nonee Walsh


© IAWRT Afrah Shafiq, Archana Kapoor, Chandita Mukherjee, Erika Rae Cruz, Eva Anandi Brownstein,Khedija Lemkecher

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