Azraq Film School Students Tell Their Own Stories

Jordan's Azraq Camp is home to more than 35,000 refugees. More than half are under 18. CARE's innovative work there with displaced youth includes a film school that offers creative educational opportunities in filmmaking and storytelling, and a platform for self-expression.

Over the last two years, CARE implemented four Azraq Film School (AFS) boot camps with young refugees and youth from the Jordanian host communities in Azraq, and recently expanded to communities in Ramallah, West Bank. For the last three camps, CARE’s partner, Epic Magazine, sent members of their staff to volunteer their time as teachers and mentors. Through Azraq Film School (AFS), CARE seeks to provide youth in refugee and displaced contexts with creative educational opportunities in film-making and storytelling, and to provide them with a platform for self-expression. Through the student films, AFS counters the one-dimensional narrative in mainstream media about refugees and catalyzes the next generation of storytellers and creators amongst displaced youth.

Sisters Afrah, left, and Bushra created the film "Peace Please." Afrah won the film workshop’s “Oscar” for best screenplay. Bushra says, "I’m motivated by the journalists I remember in Syria. We would talk to them and they shared our voice with the world. They helped us be heard. I want to do the same." Photo: Justin Bastien/CARE
Influenced by their love of taekwondo and Bruce Lee films, Wael, left, and Abdulkareem created an action movie called "Path of the Dragon." Abdulkareem says, "My hope is to go to America. I would love to work on action films in Hollywood. I’d like to be a cameraman. We have to work to succeed in our dreams. Life is a sea of dreams, we have to build a bridge to cut across it." Photo: Justin Bastien/CARE
Zeinab's film is called "Bike-Won-Do." “It was fun because I got to meet new people and do new things and learn new things!” She adds, “If someone kept following what everyone else told them to do we would never get anywhere. I learned that from the film we’re filming.” Photo: Anna Ruch/CARE

Displaced and refugee youth suffer from acute and sustained traumas, often resulting in behavioral and emotional problems like social withdrawal and difficulty sleeping, etc., signs of impaired social functioning in daily life, and disrupted social and community support mechanisms. Unemployment and limited access to higher education also severely impact the opportunities and optimism of youth in both Azraq and the West Bank. Creative outlets, career training, social interaction, and personal and professional development are key for young people to develop positive coping mechanisms and be best prepared for improving their economic circumstances.

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