This is Exile: Diaries of Child RefugeesPurchase Tickets
“Exile has killed us.” These words, spoken by one of the many children featured in Mani Benchelah’s devastating documentary about the Syrian refugee crisis, indicate how dire the situation has become for the most vulnerable members of a displaced and dispersed community now numbering in the millions. Indeed, another preadolescent boy’s comment that “this is grown-up talk, not young-kids talk,” reminds one of the disparities between a childhood spent in relative comfort and a childhood that has been interrupted by war, sickness, and familial separation. Although numerous documentary shorts and feature-length films on the subject have been produced since 2011, when fighting first broke out between Syrian government forces (under the authoritarian Presidency of Bashar al-Assad), Sunni Arab rebel groups, and the Islamic State, Benchelah’s work stands out from the pack due to its exclusive focus on young refugees living in neighboring Lebanon. Several boys and girls take time out from playing eerily realistic war games to speak directly to the camera, sharing their individual hardships and their longing for home. This prism of personal testimonies reflects in microcosm the hopes and fears shared by many other Syrians — young and old alike — whose future remains unclear and who are finding fewer countries around the world willing to play host or provide humanitarian assistance. Thankfully, this illuminating film can open people’s hearts and minds to the physical suffering and psychological traumas that these children will likely carry with them into adulthood.
– By David Scott Diffrient