REFUGEE KIDS is an hour-long documentary that follows newly arrived students at the International Rescue Committee’s intense, New York-based academic and cultural “boot camp” for children seeking asylum from the world’s most volatile conflicts. The film presents an intimate, emotionally gripping account of the students’ stories of escaping war and conflict and resettling in America, chronicling their triumphs and setbacks as their lives unfold over the course of one formative summer.
Our film puts a human face on a number of international crises including the aftermath of the war in Iraq, the unrest in Egypt, the on-going struggles of Tibetans, the turmoil in Western Africa and the under-reported story of the Bhutanese refugees. REFUGEE KIDS will humanize complex geopolitics and depict the challenges and urgency of immigration to America in an increasingly dangerous – and inter-connected – world.
Refugee Kids back story
Back in 2009, Debbie Kraus, my colleague from the TV news world, switched careers to become a caseworker for the International Rescue Committee. I loved hearing Debbie’s stories about the IRC’s summer academy – how over the course of six weeks, the kids transformed from tongue-tied newcomers into confident, hip New Yorkers.
George, 17, en route to the IRC summer school via the Staten Island ferry - about a two hour trip each way.
Debbie’s stories -- about George from Liberia, who lost both parents; Helen from Burma; Technath from Nepal; and Rigzin and Tashi, twins from Tibet who were separated from their parents for eight years -- commandeered my imagination and journalistic instincts. These kids’ experiences put a face on global problems of persecution and displacement that effects over 70 million people. A documentary about the kids of the IRC Summer Academy would show one small school taking on the world and at the same time, be a window onto the 21st century’s story of displacement and resettlement. I felt compelled to make this documentary happen.
My first lucky break was teaming up with my friend and award-winning filmmaker/cameraman Peter Miller and his multi-talented, associate producer, Caroline Berler. With Peter and Caroline on board, we convinced the summer academy directors to grant us unrestricted access to the school and its diverse students.
For six weeks, we filmed with a rotating, volunteer crew and recorded over 100 hours of raw footage. In the next six months, we crafted that footage into a 7 minute trailer edited by Emmy nominated editor, Rachel Reichman.
That in turn, raised enough money to hire our incomparable editor, Aaron Vega. It took another year but Peter, Aaron, Caroline and I have managed to edit together a powerful rough cut. The film tells the story of one small school that takes in the most vulnerable members of the world’s persecuted populations. At the same time, the school takes on the world, too - challenging us all, even in our jaded and broken times, to reconsider the promise of America that first called to most of our forbears and to this current generation of new Americans.
Praktisha, 5, born and raised in a refugee camp in Nepal and living in the Bronx
We now appeal to you. Our rough cut is complete. We have all the footage we need (and more!). Investing in this film is not a gamble. Our goals as films go are modest: $10,000 to score the film. We will need another $20,000 to go to the lab for sound mix and color correction but like the children who inspire us, we are taking this process one small step at a time.
Thanks for your consideration,
Renée Silverman, co-director/producer
- (30 days)