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Watch and Share These Five Documentaries for World Refugee Day

By Susan Q. Yin

June 20th is World Refugee Day. It has been 18 years since the United Nations General Assembly declaration and 67 years since the 1951 Refugee Convention, and yet the crisis of displaced populations persists around the world. And as long as refugees have been uprooted from their homelands and forced into an unending journey of hope and despair, filmmakers have captured their stories for the rest of us to experience. We at IDA have assembled a selection of docs that take you on wrenching treks across deserts and seas to new, strange lands--sometimes welcoming, sometimes hostile.


4.1 Miles (Daphne Matziaraki, 2016)

Winner of David L. Wolper Student Documentary Award at the 2016 IDA Documentary Awards and an Academy Award® Short Subject nominee, 4.1 Miles follows a Hellenic Coast Guard captain on a small Greek island that is suddenly charged with saving thousands of refugees from drowning at sea during the European migration crisis. The short is an intimate close-up portrait that gives viewers hope for humanity.

Watch it: Youtube, POV, New York Times Op-Docs


Fire At Sea (Gianfranco Rosi, 2016)

IDA Documentary Awards Best Cinematography winner and an Academy Award® nominee, Fire at Sea takes place in Lampedusa, a remote Mediterranean island that has become a major entry point for refugees into Europe. Director Gianfranco Rosi forgoes narration, commentary and interviews, allowing the viewer to fully engage in the cinematic artistry and a rich cast of characters. Fire At Sea is a beautifully rendered microcosm of a humanitarian crisis.

Watch it: Netflix, Amazon, Google Play, YouTube Movies, iTunes


God Grew Tired of Us (Christopher Dillon Quinn and Tommy Walker, 2006)

During the second Sudanese Civil War, from 1983-2005, two million people died and four million more were displaced. God Grew Tired Of Us chronicles the arduous journey of three young men, John Bul Dau, Daniel Pach and Panther Bior, who walked a thousand miles to escape their war-ridden homeland and ultimately arrived in the United States as refugees in 2001. The film won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, and director Christopher Quinn earned the 2006 IDA Emerging Documentary Filmmaker Award.

Watch it: Amazon, Google Play, YouTube Movies, iTunes


Human Flow (Ai Weiwei, 2017)

While many other films follow individual, smaller stories, Human Flow stretches across the globe through 23 countries. The film follows a chain of urgent human stories that elucidates both the staggering scale of the refugee crisis and its profoundly personal human impact. For Ai Weiwei, “the purpose [of the documentary] is to show it to people of influence, people who are in a position to help and who have a responsibility to help.”

Watch it: Netflix, Google Play, YouTube Movies


The Good Postman (Tonislav Hristov, 2016)

The Good Postman follows a postman's mayoral run on a platform of welcoming refugees into his Bulgarian border town, Great Dervent, with only 38 elderly residents. His opposition includes Halachev, who wants to prevent refugees from taking jobs, as well as the current mayor, a woman named Vesa, who is amusingly indifferent to both men’s pursuits.

Watch It: Youtube Movies, Google Play