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Wala'a, 16, from Syria produced a short film about her life as a refugee
Dream come true

Changing the world frame by frame: Syrian teen wins two awards for her short film

Photo: Kaity Kawar/IRC

Sixteen-year-old Wala’a is haunted by a terrifying memory—being assaulted by a soldier as she fled the war in Syria. One of more than 700,000 refugees now living in Jordan, she struggles to come to terms with the losses and hardships the conflict has inflicted on her and her family. But Wala’a has found a way to tell her story.

“I was always asking myself, ‘How can I express this thing that happened to me?’ I couldn’t talk about it. I couldn’t even write about it,” she recalls.

Earlier this February, the International Rescue Committee, in collaboration with the nonprofit WomenOne, organised a media-skills workshop in the city of Irbid, home to many young girls like Wala’a. The workshop took a creative approach to helping them understand the difficult experiences of their recent pasts—instructors taught them to speak through a camera. In her short film, “A Girl, Whose Shadows Reflects the Moon,” Wala’a begins by describing daily life in Jordan. She then confronts her difficult memory, capturing herself running as she did from the soldier in Syria.

A dream come true 

“Through film I was able to convey what happened,” says Wala’a. “It was a dream for me to be able to show people what goes on everyday, not just with me, but with many girls. It was a dream that has come true.”

While she was grateful for the opportunity to express herself, Wala’a never thought the exercise would be anything but a chance to work out personal sorrows. But her short won two awards from UN Plural +, a youth festival that encourages young people to explore migration, diversity and social inclusion. Since 2009, almost 1,000 budding filmmakers from 90 countries have participated in Plural +, the winning videos screened at dozens of other festivals and broadcast on television networks around the world.

Wala’a was thrilled to be honored, and to learn that her message had spread so far and wide.

“I never expected to win, but I’m very proud of what I have achieved,” she says. Wala'a now aspires to be a scriptwriter and director and already has plans for two films that she hopes to produce after her exams.

“[The stories] are about youth who were all either studying or working,” she explains. “They all had hopes and dreams. But with everything that happened in Syria, these dreams seemed to have vanished, and I want to tell the world that.”

This project was funded by DFID in collaboration with WomenOne. Plural + is a joint initiative of UNAOC and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) with the support of a wide network of international partners.