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3 Oscar-Nominated Shorts Spotlight the Refugee Crisis

  • Ryan Duncan blogspot for and Ryan Duncan, Entertainment and Culture editor
  • 2017 Feb 23

Over the weekend, Hollywood will roll out the red carpet to welcome its best and brightest to the 89th Academy Awards show. Countless viewers will tune in to witness the elegant fashion or cheer on their favorite movies, waiting patiently as the Academy wades through a number of smaller categories before arriving at the big awards. This year, however, Christians might want to pay attention to one group in particular; the films nominated for “Best Short Documentary”. While all of these brief videos have been lauded for their messages, three have chosen to spotlight the Syrian refugee crisis and the stories of those involved. Many Christians still harbor strong feelings on how America should respond to the swell of refugees, but regardless of where you fall, these documentaries offer a vital perspective all believers should consider.

So, if you have free moment, and are looking for a way to better understand the Syrian conflict, consider watching one of these short documentaries.

The White Helmets

Available to watch on Netflix, The White Helmets follows a group of everyday civilians who became a symbol of hope amidst the war-torn neighborhoods. “The White Helmets” are a group of men dedicated to saving lives. Whenever there is a bombing, they are the first to arrive and bring aid, often at considerable risk to their own lives. According to some sources, these brave men are responsible for rescuing more than 60,000 people throughout the war, many of them children. The new documentary hopes to tell their stories while educating the viewers on the complexities (and dangers) of the Syrian civil war.

Watani: My Homeland

Shot over the course of three years, Watani: My Homeland follows a single family as they attempt to navigate the confusion and loss delivered by war. After their father is captured by ISIS forces, four young children and their mother flee Aleppo and start a new life in Goslar, Germany. Even then, their journey is far from over. The family must learn to acclimate to this strange country where they are often regarded with fear and suspicion. Watani: My Homeland is a heartbreaking testimony to the horrors of war, highlighting the suffering of children and families who are forced to abandon everything they love for the sake of survival.

4.1 Miles

The title of this documentary serves as a measurement of distance between Turkey and the Greek Island of Lesbos. It also references the final and most perilous crossing for refugees hoping to find safety in Greece. 4.1 Miles chronicles the efforts of the Greek Coast Guard as they endeavor to rescue hundreds of families as they cross the storm-tossed ocean. Many do not survive, while many more are found clinging to makeshift rafts and overcrowded lifeboats. The gripping imagery and painful stories are sure to move even the coldest viewer, while Christian audiences will likely find themselves reflecting on Christ’s parable of The Good Samaritan and asking themselves, “Who is my neighbor”?         

Christians have always been critical of Hollywood and for good reason, but this year, believers should take the opportunity to view these three films and meditate on their message. Each of these stories is a challenge for us to take up; be it in prayer, encouragement, or service to those in need. God has commanded us to be his hands and feet in this world, but sometimes we must first watch and listen before we can know where to go.

*Published 2/22/17