This week is Refugee Week (15-21st June), a UK-wide festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees. To mark this increasingly relevant and growing global movement Bridge+Tunnel creative Director Tina Gharavi shared the following:
“10 years ago, we made I Am Nasrine, using all the community resources we could find. I had developed the film with refugees and asylum seekers (who I gave training to in filmmaking and who made their own remarkable films) and it was a labour of love to get the film made and then completed. We shot the film on about £100K but it took several years to complete it.
The film was my attempt to humanise the asylum experience… something that mirrored my own experience of leaving Iran one generation earlier in 1979. The film became more and more complex as the Film Council closed its doors… and no options for support or funding (Women in Film in LA being an exception)…. Both Channel Four and BBC turned down the film to screen it even after it had 4-star reviews and a BAFTA nomination. I often wondered what it was about the film that bothered them the most… The humanisation of the asylum experience or not having a clique of the North and working class communities?
Regardless, over 10 years after the release, the film finds its audience. We have released the film, toured the country and used it in many education and political contexts (including screening the film in the Houses of Parliament) and the teacher pack still gets downloads.
This goes to show, even if the mainstream isn’t going to fund, support or help your film… you do it regardless. I tell this story as a way of recording what happened and if anyone can take comfort in this struggle then good. Also always happy to discuss with anyone who is doing the same. Stories are life-rafts. One of the most important lessons I learnt running the community training programme working with refugees was: telling your story can save your life. I believe that…. Your story is political. Your story is vital. Your story should be your own… and the battleground of the next decade will be: Who gets to speak for whom. “
Tina’s piece in the Guardian titled ‘I Am Nasrine director Tina Gharavi: ‘The British public has been hijacked’ is available to read here.