On the heels of World Refugee Day (June 20), Icarus Films has acquired North American rights to Anne Poiret's new feature documentary, "Welcome to Refugeestan," an essential exploration of the current refugee system and a rare glimpse at life inside the world's major refugee camps.
An official selection of the United Nations Association Film Festival and the Oxford Refugee Week Conference, "Welcome to Refugeestan's" release comes as a recent UN report counts 65.6 million people currently displaced from their homes globally, with 22.5 considered refugees - a new record high.
A Burundian man steps off a bus in Tanzania and waits to be processed at a refugee camp. Two of his brothers are dead, and his parents have disappeared. With no idea what lies ahead, other than a conviction that it must be better than what he has left behind, he lines up and waits to be processed. He is about to become one of the millions of people around the world who are refugees.
"Welcome to Refugeestan" offers viewers an unprecedented view into life in the world's primary refugee camps. The Dadaab camp in Kenya is the world's largest, with a population of 350,000. The brand-new Azraq camp in Jordan, built to house Syrian refugees, was supposed to be a model of enlightened design, but with its grid of soulless, identical white buildings under the hot desert sun, it has become a cautionary tale. Poiret also takes her viewers to the UNHCR offices in Switzerland, where many of the policies originate.
The world's refugees are also becoming an important captive consumer market, the film illustrates. As camps become places for companies to test out new technologies ranging from cardless ATMs to solar-powered lights, retail outlets cater to a captive population forcibly prevented from shopping elsewhere. As the world grapples with an ever-increasing number of people fleeing conflict, the documentary "Welcome to Refugeestan" is certainly timely and important.
"Welcome to Refugeestan" is now available for movie theater, cinematheque and film festival audiences, via Icarus.