Simple technology to ease young refugees into their new surroundings

  • 10 months 3 weeks ago
  • programme grantloan

The Ortigia Film Festival in Syracuse had an unusual first in July this year. A group of young refugees presented a foretaste of the project that is giving them a voice they have never had since they wound up on the shores of Europe.

They were part of the RE-FUTURE project (Fostering the Integration of Unaccompanied Refugee minors), a new approach to cultural integration of this special category of migrants.

"One of the most striking moments of the evening was the projection of the Re-future film 'When a smartphone creates integration', about the imaginative educational project for young unaccompanied migrants in Syracuse. A production full of beautiful surprises."

These youngsters, some of the 10,000 unaccompanied or separated minors who reach Italy every year, are learning how to tell their own stories as they integrate into their new life.

Mobile phone cameras are giving many of them the power to tell their own stories, and to help them in using the universal language of images to win understanding in the communities where they are now living. Responding to this very deep challenge of integrating unaccompanied minors doesn't necessarily require very high tech. But even with simple equipment, the project is giving them an intense year of training on video literacy, equipping them with technical skills in story telling and composition.

They are free to film whatever they like, and however they like. They can say who they are, what they feel in this new situation, what their current life is like, their hopes and fears, ambitions and disappointments.

It can be the hostel where they sleep, the school they attend, the basketball pitch they play on, the square they hang out on, the bus-stop where they wait endlessly for the bus – or bouts of melancholy or the urgency of legal problems.

They have a chance to speak for themselves. But in recording their daily lives and the experiences they encounter as they try to become integrated, their own stories emerge – and the broader challenges of integration become clearer for society as a whole.

In the training, they learn from professional film-makers, sound technicians, art directors and writers about how to turn their smartphones into real storytellers. At the same time, the skills and disciplines that they learn are boosting the chances of these young people for finding work.

"The smartphone shifts from being simply a technological device, often dismissed as impersonalising, to an instrument for recording and sharing intimate personal experiences."

By the end of next year, a full-length feature documentary film will have been created from the videos they young people have made. This will be complemented with additional backstage video, a research study, a toolkit for NGOs and a wide range of dissemination outputs and events.

Andrea Caccia, one of the film-makers providing the training – and who is producing a documentary film about the project – says: "Teaching these kids how to see our reality with critical eyes, in full freedom, creatively putting themselves in the picture to express themselves, makes it possible to have a real exchange. They see our world, and through that we learn something of theirs."

Creative Europe funding

RE-FUTURE was awarded EU funding in October 2016 as part of the Creative Europe call for refugee integration projects. It was funded along with 11 other projects, in total featuring 62 organisations from across 20 countries.

Explore Creative Europe Project Results to find more examples of EU-funded cultural projects, past and ongoing, dealing with these issues. Try searching with keywords such as "refugees", "migration" or "social inclusion".