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Home » Archives » July 2006 » U.N. Refugee Film Festival in Tokyo offers Free Screenings

U.N. Refugee Film Festival in Tokyo offers Free Screenings

Tuesday, July 25, 2006 Posted: 06:58 PM JST

(by Jean Miyake Downey) - As the world silently watches the tragedy of 700,000 Lebanese people who have become war refugees overnight because of Israeli bombings, the U.N.C.H.R., the U.N. Refugee Agency, is presenting for the first time in Japan the Refugee Film Festival through July 27.

Documentaries, feature films, and animated films about refugees and by refugees, focusing on Africa, Middle East and Asia, are being screened.

The Japan Times describes the Refugee Film Festival:

"Eighteen films both about and by refugees, including documentaries, feature films and animated films, will be screened free of charge at four Tokyo venues -- L'Institut-Franco-Japonais de Tokyo in Shinjuku, the Goethe-Institut Tokyo in Akasaka, the Swedish Embassy Auditorium in Roppongi and the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Chiyoda. Films will be screened with English subtitles.

Six screenings feature special appearances. These include Mizue Furui, director of "Ghada -- Songs of Palestine" on July 25 (7 p.m.); a guest speaker from the Japanese nongovernmental organization TPAC for the screening of "Innocence" (July 22, 3 p.m. and July 24, 7 p.m.) set in Thailand's northern mountain villages; and a presentation by Peace Winds Japan for the 2001 French-Iranian production "Kandahar" (July 27, 7 p.m.) that follows a young female journalist's return to Afghanistan.

There will also be an appearance by Benoit Duchateau-Arminjon at the screening of "Children of Krousar Thmey" (July 27, 7 p.m.). Duchateau-Arminjon is the founder of the Krousar Thmey Foundation, which was the first NGO to be set up in Cambodia following the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime."


Dreaming of Tibet by American Will Parrinello, follows a group of exiles who describe how they are working for the survival of Tibetan culture outside of Tibet's physical geography.

It's Like That a poignant Australian animated documentary is based on the recorded voices of three children detained in one of Australia's several Immigration Detention Centers.

Four films focus on Cambodian refugees.

Children of Krousar Thmey by director Marcus d'Arcy follow 32 orphans in refugee camp Site 2 and their return to Cambodia.

Emmy Award-winning Spencer Nakasaka's Refugee tells the story of the journey of a Cambodian-American refugee, raised in San Francisco's tough Tenderloin neighborhood, and two American friends to Cambodia:

"The film revolves around Michael "Adoe" Siv, a gregarious 24-year-old who moves easily between worlds--the street corner and the college campus; Cambodian and American cultures.  He and his mother escaped to the U.S. during the 1979 Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia.  It was a horrific time, with the country still devastated from the Vietnam War and in chaos from the bloody regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.  To escape further bloodshed, Mike and his mom fled, leaving his dad and younger brother behind.

In his teenage years Mike flirted with street life in the T.L., where he and his mother settled as refugees.  Now enrolled in college, he has decided to return to Cambodia to meet his long-lost father and brother.  Accompanied by long-time friends Paul Meas and David Mark, Mike sets off on a journey that takes him to a new Cambodia rising up from the killing fields, and into the blurred entanglements of his family's past...

Mike Siv and his father live on opposite sides of a chasm wrought by emotion and history.  In between lies a quagmire of political upheaval, military invasion, years of being apart and living in different worlds.  In REFUGEE, a simple reunion becomes a journey of discovery.  It is a film about families, war, separation and ultimately, acceptance.
"

Australian director Ian White's Straight Refugees tells the story of the U.S. government's deportations of non-citizen Cambodian-Americans, who came to the U.S. as refugees, convicted of (sometimes minor) crimes, back to Cambodia.

(Kil Ja Kim's "The Image of the Black Criminal in Cambodian Poverty and Deportation Struggles" at the Chickenbones: A Journal for Literary and Artistic African-American themes(one of my favorite web spaces) holds insights into this situation:

"In March of 2002, the US signed a secret repatriation agreement with Cambodia. Repatriation is the forced return, or deportation, of an immigrant back to their country of origin.  The US government repatriates any non-citizen (of any status) who is convicted of an “aggravated felony” in the US or who overstay their visas.  When someone is repatriated, they cannot return back to the US, even to see loved ones.  Over 200,000 Cambodian refugees live in the US.   Approximately 1,500 Cambodians have orders of deportation.  On June 22, 2002, the first six Cambodians were deported to Cambodia; in September another eleven followed.  More have been deported since, including an elderly man in his eighties...

Activists—especially after 9-11—often frame immigrants as victims of injustice or xenophobia (fear of foreigners) who do not deserve to be in the prison system.  The process of which immigrants get sympathy is highly racialized, as noted by how many post-9-11 activists have been relatively silent on border patrol’s violence towards Mexican and Central Americans that has no doubt contributed to the fact that along with Blacks, Brown people make up two thirds of the US prison population.  The implicit message is that some groups 'deserve' to be in prison, and others do not...

In the case of Cambodians, they tend to get sympathy because they are refugees who were often pushed by the US government into Black neighborhoods when they got to the US.  Because they live near Blacks in poor urban neighborhoods, Cambodians have somewhat been pitied by different activists and academics.  This, however, is a somewhat strategic sympathy, because it seems to serve ulterior motives.  For one, Asian American politics tends to fetishize poor Southeast Asians because they are considered 'dark' and 'poor...'"

Season of Fear by Chutima Thongbura shows the day-to-day lives of 500,000 internally displaced people in Burma:

"This video shows the day-to-day struggle of over half a million displaced persons in eastern Burma and how displacements impacts communities and individuals. In September 2005, the Burmese military launched an offensive and displaced thousands of people in Nyaung Lay Bin and Toungoo Districts. Some villages were burnt down and some people had to cross border to take shelter in refugee camp.

In the context of human rights, this should be a cause for increased international pressure on the miliary regime in Burma. The actions we and the IDPs themselves are calling for includes increase level of humanitarian aid and support to IDPs and condemnation by the international community of attacks on IDPs.

An activist-inspired film, its creators hope to bring global attention to military dictator Than Shwe's brutal ethnic cleansing in Burma:

"Season of Fear" shows the accelerating pace of the world's silent humanitarian crisis—the forcible displacement of over a million people in eastern Burma. Over the past decade, Burma's dictator Than Shwe has used military force, human rights abuses, and the destruction/burning of villages in a brutal anti-insurgency campaign that has left millions of Burmese people homeless in the country's jungles. Child mortality and malnutrition rates in eastern Burma are now comparable to those among internally displaced person in the horn of Africa.

Soldiers of Than Shwe's military regime have recently dramatically stepped up their attacks -- since February 2006 over 15,500 people have been freshly displaced, and over 1800 forced to flee as refugees to Thailand. The pace of attacks and scale of displacement is the worst in over a decade.

The US Congress has found that these acts constitute "ethnic cleansing" of Burma's ethnic minorities and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights has condemned the atrocities.

Two years ago, the United States passed the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act to increase pressure on Burma's ruling military regime, and in December 2005 the UN Security Council received its first ever briefing on the situation in Burma. Following the December briefing, the political, humanitarian, and human rights situation continues to deteriorate. The actions of the junta remain a destabilizing force to the community of civilized nations.


According to Human Rights Watch, in 2001, there were around 14.9 million refugees (displaced by war, civil conflict, political strife, or gross human rights abuses) and 22 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) uprooted in their own countries worldwide. The above linked website has a PDF schedule of all films.

Jean Miyake Downey is a contributing editor at the Kyoto Journal: Perspectives on Asia (www.kyotojournal.org), an award-winning English-language quarterly published in Kyoto, Japan. She covers multicultural and transnational issues. Drawing on her background as a sociologist and lawyer, she takes an interdisciplinary look at the nexuses between historical and contemporary hybridity and fusion; global cultural trauma and historical healing; the revival and survival of traditional and indigenous cultures; and global human rights movements.

Keywords: arts_entertainment

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