The London Migration Film Festival (LMFF) has made to its second year, and will take place from 30 November – 5 December across several venues. Why a film festival around migration? And what are some of the challenges involved in putting such an event together?
by LAURA STAHNKE
LMFF was started in 2016 by Migration Collective, a group of close friends with both personal and professional experience of migration. The first edition of the festival garnered significant positive attention and helped us gain momentum, with all the events selling out. The idea behind the festival is to challenge the narrow rhetoric on migration that often reduces migrants and refugees to binaries, such as either victims or enemies, but rarely recognises their humanity. Because of this, the goal of LMFF is to portray the diversity, nuance and subjective experience of migration – including and beyond the refugee experience – in order to restore the dignity and humanity inherent within it.
We were so encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive response last year that we decided to expand, and although LMFF 2017 is still run by volunteers and has been put together with a starting budget of just £150, we rely on the support of multiple partners in the film industry as well as the charity sector. Artists have given us a major hand by offering their work at unbeatable prices, which helped us with our goal of making the festival as inclusive and affordable as possible.
Recently, many directors around the world have begun producing work focusing on migration and refugee issues. When we opened submissions for the festival we received more than 650 films, and after a long summer spent watching and evaluating them, we are now able to offer festival-goers a crafted selection of more than 20 feature, short and documentary films focusing on the intersection of migration with themes such as integration, race, labour, gender, activism, power, language, food, return and displacement, among others. And the range of genres included, ranging from semi-musical comedy to meditative docudrama, highlights how migration sits as part of a more universal human experience. Beyond this we have intentionally chosen films taking place in diverse parts of the world and migratory routes, in order to challenge the expectation that most people move from the Global South to the Global North.
Our selection includes films directed by established artists and directors, such as Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow, as well as the work of lesser known filmmakers who use new perspectives to analyse migration and refugee issues, such as The Art of Moving by Liliana Dulce Marinha de Sousa and The Dog by Canzhao Lan. In order to offer a platform to artists who identify as migrants and refugees, we have selected as many films as possible directed, produced and starred in by migrants, such as Ambaradan, Per un Figlio and The Parable of the Return.
And LMFF 2017 is not just limited to films. For example, the opening gala (30 Nov) will host the performance of a dance piece by Natashas Project, which represents the experience of trafficked sex workers, and extracts of the play ‘Dear Home Office’ and ‘Dear Home Office: Still pending’. The two play is presented by Phosphoros Theatre, a company made up of 10 refugee and asylum-seeking young men from Afghanistan, Albania, Eritrea and Somalia who came to the UK on their own as children. The plays are based on the young men’s real lives as they arrive to and live in the UK.
Finally, LMFF 2017 programme includes a live storytelling event, a roundtable with three NGOs working with young refugees in the UK and abroad, and a live music gig, as well as a workshop led by Consented on the relationship(s) between migration and imperialism.