Stories of movement and beauty at the London Migration Film Festival
In venues across the capital, the seventh edition of this annual event features cinema from Mexico, Argentina, Lebanon and more
The typical depiction of migrants is either as “villain or victorious”, according to Saliha Majeed-Hajaj, a co-founder of London-based advocacy group the Migration Collective. “We want to challenge the negative, narrow rhetoric and give a platform to illustrate movement and mobility,” she said.
That aim is central to the seventh edition of the organisation’s annual London Migration Film Festival, which runs from 24 to 30 November in seven venues across the capital. This year’s programme will include 20 events and 17 films, along with two workshops and a live concert by the Saied Silbak trio, followed by a DJ set by Ernesto Chahoud.
The films include contributions from Mexico, Lebanon and the United States. They also address a range of contemporary themes such as the climate crisis, modern slavery and LGBTQ+ issues.
Migrants make up an estimated 14.4% of the UK’s population — roughly 9.5 million people — yet popular cinema rarely tells their stories. Majeed-Hajaj’s parents moved from Pakistan to North Yorkshire, her father back in the 1960s and her mother in the 1980s. That personal history has played a large part in her work.
“The festival will showcase that people move for lots of different reasons. It’s not just forced migration, it’s about labour migration, migration for love,” she said. “The main goal is to show the diversity, the challenges but also the beauty and happiness that migration can bring.”
Here’s our rundown of a few festival highlights.
This dark, animated fairytale follows the search for peace and refuge of brother and sister Kyona and Adriel. Separated from their parents when their home is invaded, the children face exile alone. The story is loosely based on the experience of director Florence Miailhe’s grandmother, who fled antisemitic persecution in Ukraine in the 1900s.
In 2012, the Syrian civil war forced the International Centre of Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas to relocate from Aleppo to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. That laborious process marks the start of this contemplative short film. Directed by Jumana Manna, it captures the relationship between international organisations such as the Global Seed Vault in Svalbard and the young refugee women doing much of the vital work on the ground.
This Rain Will Never Stop
A gentle but visually arresting documentary focusing on people who have to leave their homes and build new lives for a second time. Directed by Alina Gorlova, it follows the Suleyman family, who fled the civil war in Syria and ended up scattered across Germany, Kurdish Iraq, Ukraine and Syria. Now, ensnared by the military conflict in Ukraine, will they escape war again?
Directed by Michael Borodin, this film is based on true events in Russia. Mukhabbat, an Uzbek immigrant, works at a convenience store on the outskirts of Moscow. Like the rest of the staff at the store, she is forced to work without pay and subjected to mental and physical abuse. Then she takes matters into her own hands.
A poetic film exploring one city hidden within another. Director Andrés Guerber uses meditative sound to reveal the multilayered experience of Mountakha, a Senegalese newcomer to Argentina, as he navigates work, maintaining a connection with family and the new life he has found.
For the full London Migration Film Festival programme and tickets, click here
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