Gulsom and her husband in a kitchen, smiling as they prepare a meal

Why the title ‘My (Refugee) Life’?

Our documentary has an unusual title. Here’s why we chose it.


Breaking Barriers

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My (Refugee) Life follows five refugees, Bahaa, Bahadury, Gulsom, Joel and Zarith as they build a new life in the UK. The film looks beyond the numbers and behind closed doors and follows the five as they navigate temporary accommodation, employment, love, family and education.

Refugee can be an explosive word. Laden with stigma and stereotypes, and becoming increasingly misunderstood and politicised, it comes with a mountain of baggage.

We work with people from almost 80 countries, of all ages, genders, sexualities, and religious backgrounds, who speak a myriad of languages and who have had, and are having, completely different experiences in their lives. Given this huge diversity, we know that trying to neatly box everyone up as a ‘refugee’ is counterproductive and pointless.

But ‘refugee’ is the word most widely understood when describing people who have fled their homes and been given the green light to build a new life in the UK. We can’t tiptoe around it. After speaking to the people we support, you’ll see that we usually try to use ‘people of a refugee background’ to put the people, not the label, at the heart of what we say.

So why have we put such a weighted label front and centre of the film’s title?

On an almost daily basis we are seeing prominent factions of the media and politicians using the word ‘refugee’ in ways that are intentionally hostile.

We won’t stand for that.

We hear from people that are worried about going into a new job and sharing about their lives because of the stigma and hostility they might face. It impacts on mental health, on confidence, on being able to show your full self to the world.

We want to reclaim refugee as a word. We want to blast apart stigma and stereotypes and show the beautiful nuance and complexity of people behind the label.

By using it so explicitly within the film’s title, alongside five people who are so generous in welcoming us into their lives, we believe we are taking an important step to normalise the word.

The film is, ultimately, about five people who share the same label ‘refugee’, and whose lives are significantly harder than they need to be because of systemic barriers that come with being a person of refugee background. We hope that after watching it you realise how many other labels could be used – football fan, lawyer, father, comedian, activist, student, tennis player, engineer – to describe the five, and how much more you have in common with them that you might have previously thought.

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