A couple of years ago British film director Daniel Mulloy was in Kosovo, where a chance encounter inspired a BAFTA-winning film, proudly supported by IOM and its sister UN agencies.
“In early 2015 I met a couple, they were relaxed and in love”, he recalled in an interview with Dazed magazine. “Circling them was a bright and energetic toddler who was pulling a wheelie bag as he ran. They were smart but their clothes hung on thin frames, a little ill-fitting. We began chatting and I learned that their clothes had been donated to them by nuns and their son had just been operated on after falling ill sleeping on the floor of a Hungarian jail cell.
“We were in Kosovo and they were being returned to a nightmare that they had risked their lives to escape. I left them feeling sickened and disturbed. I then returned to the UK, billboards were up on streets that were overtly racist and our politicians were dehumanizing those fleeing war zones, referring to them as ‘swarms’ and living in ‘jungles’. The film grew out of the fact that I wanted to respond.”
The end product was “Home”, a film that would set out to deepen public understanding and empathy for refugees and migrants fleeing conflicts, violence and xenophobia across the globe. Starring Jack O’Connell and Holliday Grainger, the film follows a British family forced to become refugees by war and on a dangerous journey, fleeing conflict and violence.
Not only did the UN Kosovo team help finance much of the cost of making the film, the staff also helped coordinate complicated on-the-ground logistics, bringing together international donors, diverse community members, and government agencies, including the Kosovo security forces and police.
“Home” director Daniel Mulloy accepting the BAFTA at the recent awards ceremony.
The movie was mainly shot in the ethnically diverse villages of Janjeva and Gracanica; communities in Kosovo which continue to face deep legacies of the war that lasted from 1998 until 1999. With armed conflict very recent in the region and communities still struggling to reconcile and come together, the making of “Home” in itself provided a much needed and creative space for community engagement and participation at the local level in Kosovo.
As UN Development Coordinator’s Office staffer Shpend Qamili, himself a returned refugee in Kosovo, recalls his experience working on the film, “people who would most likely avoid talking to each other on the street had become friendly”. The success of the film has also brought great enthusiasm in Kosovo to support and implement creative initiatives in the arts, culture and community development in the future.
Tajma Kurt, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Kosovo commended “The film has garnered much recognition at the international level, building awareness and support, and most importantly, public empathy for the plight and rights of refugees and migrants who are making perilous journey all over the world.”
IOM Kosovo plans to expand the breadth and depth of its work on migration, community development and reconciliation in the region through programmes such as Return and Reintegration, Community Stabilisation, and Socioeconomic Inclusion of Minority Communities.
The film will form the centrepiece of the United Nations “Together” film festival which will take place around International Migrants’ Day later this year.
Tenzin Dolker is Programme Consultant at IOM Kosovo.