Young Syrian refugees address prevalent social problems through films

A window onto another world: The Danish Refugee Council’s (DRC) ‘Youth Oscars’ gives young Syrian refugees and vulnerable Jordanians a chance to showcase their films and celebrate their work among family and loved ones.


Of the countless challenges that come as a result of being displaced from one’s country, not having a creative outlet might seem largely insignificant to many. But young refugees who resettle with their families in other countries often find themselves unable to continue their education due to the need work to provide for their families. Displaced youth often long for programmes that allow them to express themselves and engage in creative activities.

Ali was only 12 years old when he fled Dara’a - a small town in southern Syria - with his family in 2012 when the shelling became unbearable.

Like all refugees, Ali’s family journeyed from a life of relative peace and comfort to ambiguity and profound instability. He is like many of the 660 thousand Syrians who crossed the border and let go of their former lives, only to be forced to adapt to the frail opportunities that determine their new life.

“My father told us we were only going away for a few weeks, just until things back home settle down”. But seven years later, Ali finds himself out of school, working in a barbershop in East Amman to financially support his family.

As part of its protection programming that targets youth in East Amman, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) developed a manual for filmmaking courses targeted at youth funded by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (BPRM). The five-day course teaches youth technical skills related to filmmaking, and includes clear psychosocial support (PSS) objectives such as improving self-esteem, self-expression, and team building.

To celebrate the achievements of the 240 young Jordanians and Syrians who participated in the 2nd round of this course, DRC organized the ‘Oscars for Youth’; a graduation ceremony for the youth and their parents, where participants got the chance to screen their short films on the big screen and win different prizes.

“Syrian children and youth have often been centre stage in unsettling images capturing the tragedy of war and displacement” said a DRC representative. “But this is different, we are turning the camera around, giving young refugees the opportunity to tell their stories and express their own views on life”. The films which tackled topics such as child marriage, losing loved ones, social taboos, and many other widespread cultural issues were all written, directed, filmed by the participants, who also starred in their own films.

Ali was a frequent visitor of DRC’s SANAD community centre in East Amman despite living two-hours away from it. “I signed up for the filmmaking course the second I heard about it,” he said.

He has always been passionate about photography and filmmaking. “Whenever I can, I rent a camera for a few hours just so I can take photographs”. His passion quickly transformed into a talent, and people started paying him money for portraits. “I don’t charge much, just 1 JOD for 4 photos or so” he said with a smile.

“His love for films shined through his acting. He’s a real natural and his charisma is hard to miss” said one of the filmmaking course instructors.

While Ali anxiously waits for the chance to take an advanced filmmaking course, he plans on launching an online video blog so he can have a platform to share his material and tackle social and cultural problems that he faces as a refugee.

“I wish there were more courses about filmmaking and photography available to us. My boss is very understanding, he doesn’t mind me leaving for a training or workshop if it’s something I really want”.