Approximately one out of every 113 people on earth has been forcibly displaced from their homeland due to war, natural disaster or other circumstance. Whether or not to welcome the people who have fled from their homelands has become a hot button political issues in countries across the globe. Certainly, film actors aren’t going to be able to solve the problem, but they can bring attention to refugees’ plights through art.
The United Nations Refugee Agency has enlisted its goodwill ambassador, Cate Blanchett, and a number of other actors and artists, including Keira Knightley, Juliet Stevenson, Peter Capaldi, Stanley Tucci, Chiwetel Ejiofor, W October cover star Kit Harington, Douglas Booth, Jesse Eisenberg and Neil Gaiman, to star in a stirring short film about the refugee crisis.
Blanchett and the others take turns reading lines from poet Jenifer Toksvig’s “What They Took With Them,” a rhythmic poem inspired by the real life items that refugees from across the globe have actually taken with them as they flee. A list that includes items like treasured clothing, medicine for children, house keys, and other heartbreaking items.
“Face whitening cream,” receipts Ejiofor in the film. “I want my skin to be white, and my hair to be spiked. I don’t want them to know I’m a refugee. What if somebody spots me and calls the police because I’m illegal? But not if I’m white. That’s right, isn’t it?”
“As soon as I read Jenifer Toksvig’s poem, and even more so after I took part in an early performance of it, I was struck by its immense power,” said Blanchett in a statement. “The rhythm and words of the poem echo the frenzy and chaos and terror of suddenly being forced to leave your home, grabbing what little you can carry with you, and fleeing for safety.”
Meanwhile, photographs from Brian Sokol’s project, “The Most Important Thing” are interspersed in the film and projected onto the actors. The series captures the items that refugees brought with them, and the photographs have been shown around the globe.
Watch the stirring five minute film here:
The UNHCR has debutted the film to stir people to sign a petition urging governments across the globe “to send a clear message to governments that they must act with solidarity and shared responsibility.” To join Cate Blanchett and add your name to the #WithRefugees petition, click here.