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The Refugee Film Festival this week at Abertay

8 June 2015

A brand new film festival designed to celebrate the contribution refugees make to the richness and vibrancy of life in Scotland is getting underway at Abertay this week.

Held in the Hannah Maclure Centre, the Refugee Film Festival will run from 8-12 June and will feature films by - among others - acclaimed directors Ken Loach, Stephen Frears and Michael Winterbottom.

Each brings into sharp relief the harrowing circumstances that force people around the world to flee their homes and seek refuge in another country.

Carla’s Song starring Robert Carlyle, for example, highlights the plight of a Nicaraguan woman who has lost contact with her family after being forced to flee her war-town home country.

In This World, meanwhile, focuses on the extremes that parents will go to in the hope of achieving a better life for their children.

Miramax's Dirty Pretty Things, starring Oscar® winning actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, also helps to highlight the many and varied circumstances that can turn someone – anyone – into a refugee.

The festival also intends to raise awareness of the desperate circumstances that force people to leave their homes, and the challenges those seeking sanctuary on our shores face as they try to start a new – and hopefully better – life in an unfamiliar land.

Each film will start at 5.30pm and entry to all screenings is free. However, an early arrival is recommended to avoid disappointment. The festival will be opened by Joe Fitzpatrick MSP.‌

Joe FitzPatrick, Minister for Parliamentary Business and Dundee City West MSP – who will open the festival – said:

“The celebrated Scots novelist William McIlvanney once described Scotland as a 'mongrel nation' and we have always celebrated our diversity and the warmth of the welcome we extend to those who choose to come and live here.

“Scotland is home to many cultures and national groups and the inauguration of a Refugee Film Festival is a timely one, allowing us to yet again signal a warm welcome to refugees who come here for protection as well as immigrants who choose to make their home in Scotland for other reasons.”

Dr Monish Bhatia – a Lecturer in Criminology at Abertay University who researches and teaches in the areas of asylum seeking, refugees, ‘race’ and racism – explains why he wanted to set up this festival:

“Asylum seekers are one of the most vulnerable groups in our society. Often they are labelled as ‘bogus’, ‘welfare scroungers’, ‘illegal’ and ‘boat people’ – but in reality, there is no such thing as a ‘bogus’ refugee and such labels create an atmosphere of hate and intolerance.

“Most refugees are forced out of their home countries and some have lost their loved ones or become separated from them along the way. As a result, many are traumatised and experiencing severe mental health problems.

“On arriving in the UK, they are subjected to bitterly harsh policies and procedures, such as indefinite detention, which means that their trauma and suffering is on-going and, in some cases, exacerbated by the current immigration and asylum legislations.

“The aim of the Refugee Film Festival is not only to celebrate the contribution of refugees to our society, but also to highlight the predicaments of asylum seekers and to promote respect, dignity and tolerance.

“Scotland has always been welcoming to refugees, so this festival is also a celebration of the warmth of the Scottish people, the strong sense of social justice that there is here and the fact that we live in a country that can offer protection to some of the world’s most vulnerable people.”

The film festival programme is as follows:

Monday 8 June – Welcome (2009)

The Refugee Film Festival opens with the Berlin award-winning French film Welcome. A huge box office success in France – and directed by Philippe Lioret – Welcome highlights the desperate situation of those attempting to get to the UK from the migrant camps in Calais.

It tells the story of 17-year-old Kurdish refugee Bilal who has spent three months travelling across Europe to get to the UK. He is determined to be reunited with his girlfriend Mina, but immigration laws prevent him from getting any further than the north coast of France. Unwilling to give up, he begins training to swim across the English Channel in the hope of reaching England.

Tuesday 9 June – Carla’s Song (1996)

Robert Carlyle stars in the Ken Loach directed Carla’s Song as Scottish bus driver George Lennox. He meets Carla, a Nicaraguan exile living a precarious and profoundly sad life in Glasgow. Her back is scarred, her boyfriend and family are missing; she feels suicidal. George takes her to Nicaragua to find out what has happened to them and to help her face her past. Once home, Carla's nightmarish memories take over, and Carla and George are thrown into the thick of the US war against the Sandinistas. A mystery develops over where Carla's boyfriend is, and the key to his whereabouts may be Carla's friend Bradley, a bitter American aid worker.

Wednesday 10 June – In This World (2002)

The Golden Bear prize-winner In This World highlights the measures people will go to in the hope of a better life for their children. Directed by Michael Winterbottom - of 24 Hour Party People and A Mighty Heart fame - In This World follows the journey of two young Afghan refugees who are sent by their families to London from the refugee camp they call home in Pakistan.

As the journey is illegal, it is fraught with danger, and they must use bribes and back-channels – including people smugglers who lock them inside shipping containers and hide them in trucks – to try and reach their destination.

Thursday 11 June – Dirty Pretty Things (2002)

Starring Oscar® nominated actor Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) and Audrey Tautou (Amelie), Dirty Pretty Things was directed by Stephen Frears (High Fidelity, The Queen, Philomena).

A doctor in his home country of Nigeria, Ejiofor’s character Okwe was forced to flee and now works as a taxi driver and a hotel receptionist in London to make ends meet. In the hotel he meets the cleaner Senay, a Turkish Muslim played by Tautou, who – despite having a visa to stay in the UK – is not allowed to work.

They uncover a sinister organ-harvesting business operating from the hotel where immigrants swap kidneys for forged passports. As Senay is pursued by immigration officials, she and Okwe turn to desperate measures to achieve a better life in America.

Friday 12 June – 2Be (2002)

Shortlisted for the Unicef Prize at the Barcelona International Television Festival, 2Be is an original, dynamic, musical-documentary about human rights.

Filmed over a period of five months, it follows students from Abbeydale Grange School in Sheffield as they develop a series of musical sequences about human rights.

Over 51 different languages are spoken at the school, which was attended by many refugee children until it closed in 2009. Many of these children have harrowing stories to tell, and the contrast between these and their triumphant performances creates an intimate and inspiring documentary.


For media enquiries please contact Kirsty Cameron T: 01382 308935 M: 07972172158 E:

Notes to Editors:

Although well-established in Glasgow – and this year extending from one single week of events to an almost three-week long festival – this is the first time in the event’s 15 year history that it has ever come to Tayside.

  • Below are some facts and figures about refugees and asylum seekers from the Refugee Council and Scottish Refugee Council:

It is a human right to be able to seek asylum in another country. An asylum seeker is a person who has left their country of origin and formally applied for asylum in another country but whose application has not yet been concluded.

In the UK, a person is officially a refugee when they have their claim for asylum accepted by the government.

Scotland and the UK take in far fewer refugees than most other countries. They account for just 0.27 per cent of our population.

81 percent of the refugees in the world are hosted in developing countries. Pakistan hosts the highest number of refugees, followed by Iran.

To find out more about refugee and asylum seeker issues, please visit:

Medical Justice

The Refugee Council

The Scottish Refugee Council

  • “Oscar®” and “Academy Award®” are the registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
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