Inside story of child refugees in Lebanon

Sheffield film-maker spreadsthe word around the world.

Monday, 23rd January 2017, 10:00 am
Updated Monday, 23rd January 2017, 10:02 am
Lucas Jedrzejak with children he filmed in Ketermaya, Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon

A documentary about Syrian child refugees by a Sheffield film-maker is getting exposure at film festivals around the world.

Lucas Jedrzejak has been invited to show his film called Ketermaya (the name of a refugee camp in Lebanon) in New York, Los Angeles, North Carolina, Moscow, Serbia and Belfast, among others.

First he will be heading for Italy and Greece next week.

“I’ll be screening to over 10,000 people in six cities via the Peloponnese Festival of Human Rights and then joining in a debate in which I will be talking about conditions in refugee camps and the lack of support from United Nations and western aiders,” he says.

“Before that on Tuesday at a Human Rights festival in Perugia in Italy I will be the only person representing the UK and trying to explain to them the post Brexit situation concerning refugees.”

It all started when freelance documentary-maker Lucas heard of an organisation planning to bring Syrian refugees from Lebanon to Poland (the country where he was born) against considerable opposition. That was a story which proved impractical to follow up. “But then I decided to go out to Lebanon and find out what’s happening for myself,” he says.

He found Ketermaya, a refugee camp outside Beirut, where there were hundreds of children living in poverty with contaminated water and no access to education.

“The kids had decided to teach themselves by getting two older girls to lead a class. That’s my story, I thought,” continues Lucas.

Over the course of several visits he got to know the children and earned their trust. “Once they see a camera they say what’s expected, how they are bored, have nothing to eat and want to go to Europe.

“They also repeat what the grown ups say. So sometimes I would hand the camera to them and that way found a more interesting dynamic.

“I didn’t think I had enough material to cut a film, but after persuasion from my friend, Brian Holmshaw, I very reluctantly showed unfinished and not properly subtitled footage at Regather in Sharrow as part of the Festival of Debate.”

Such was the warm reception he was emboldened to submit a better edited version to the East End Film Festival in London where it received its official world premiere last summer.

That further encouraged him to apply to film festivals around the world and although the major ones seem no longer interested in refugee stories he has been welcomed by specialist events concerned with human rights issues

Meanwhile Lucas doesn’t believe the story is over and is returning in February to Ketermtaya where he will deliver a piano to a girl who dreams of becoming a pianist.

He plans to follow her dream and that of two other children who want to be an astronomer and a doctor.

“As my next step I am researching the possibility of working with Sheffield companies to provide digital educational content and VR experience to refugee camps.

“I think it is important that we support child refugees by making sure we are informed, not simply because a charity agent knocks on our door asking for money, cashing in on our compassion,” he said.