Just So/Grey London coproduction captures spirit of 65m people fleeing conflict and persecution through story of the first ever Refugee Olympic Team
There is a story that needs to be told.
On the 5th August, at the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, ten elite athletes will walk out in front of a global audience of over a billion. They’ve survived bombings, walked barefoot through entire countries and swum for hours, pushing a boatload of people to shore. Brave and determined, they didn’t just survive; they trained and qualified for the Olympics. They are the Refugee Olympic Team.
This year, for the first time in history, refugee athletes are participating in the Olympic Games, competing in Rio under the Olympic flag as part of a unified team fully funded by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). At a time when global forced displacement is at a record high, these ten swimmers, runners and judokas represent the hopes and dreams of a vast population in need of international protection. So today, an inspirational 90’ short film is being released by independent film production company Just So in cooperation with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. As the trailer for a long form documentary, it aims to build respect and empathy for the global refugee population as well as this team of ten.
“We represent all refugees and we want to show the world our potential. We will prove that we are very capable, and when we are provided adequate conditions, we can achieve great results,” said 25-year-old swimmer, Rami Anis, who fled Syria and found refuge in Belgium.
“These ten remarkable athletes embody the determination and resilience of the many millions of people fleeing conflict and persecution worldwide,” said Melissa Fleming, UNHCR’s Head of Communications and Public Information. “They remind us that refugees are people just like you and me, people who want to achieve their full potential against all odds.”
Four months ago, when the IOC announced the formation of the team, Just So sought out refugee athletes around the world to make a long form documentary to change perceptions. Coproduced by creative agency Grey London, the documentary tells the story of 65 million people forced from their homes, distilled into the experience of a few. A human perspective on the biggest crisis of our generation, the film is about determination and dignity.
“The word refugee provokes feelings of negativity, fear or at best, sympathy. We want to inspire admiration instead of pity. Because to be a refugee is to have survived, to have endured, to have never given up,” said Richard Ascott, Managing Director of Just So.
Reaching out through social media, Just So built a deep bond with the Olympic hopefuls, capturing training, family life and the world they now inhabit, while also providing them with their own cameras to film their daily lives. The film is still in production.
“We don’t know how the story will unfold,” Ascott continued, “but we do know that there are endless examples of people of ability and ambition who because of horrendous circumstances beyond their control have been expelled from their homes. Our hope is that global media and audiences will support their cause. We have a duty to tell their story.”
Jono Stevens, director, adds: “It is a flaw of the human brain that the more we are exposed to horrors and great sadness, the less impact it has on us. The story of these athletes and indeed all refugees is one of both triumph and struggle and in presenting both so starkly juxtaposed, it gives us a sense of the broader story and forces us to engage.”
Rami is one of ten athletes on Team Refugees. He is joined by another Syrian swimmer, Yusra Mardini; South Sudanese runners Yiech Pur Biel (800m), James Nyang Chiengjiek (400m), Anjelina Nada Lohalith (1,500m), Rose Nathike Lokonyen (800m), and Paulo Amotun Lokoro (1,500m); Ethiopian marathon runner Yonas Kinde; and judo players Yolande Mabika and Popole Misenga, both from Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Sarah Jenkins, Chief Marketing Officer Grey London added: “As a creative agency, we work with brands to raise awareness and change perceptions. In partnership with Just So, our “client” is the global refugee population. And our goal is to change the way the world sees them. By coproducing this film and using our combined strategic and creative skills to help it land in culture, we hope to make a positive contribution to the refugee crisis.”
According to the UNHCR, an unprecedented 65.3 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes to escape persecution, conflict, generalized violence or human rights violations. Among them are nearly 21.3 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. There are also an estimated 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.
UNHCR is urging viewers inspired by the film to sign its #WithRefugees petition. Launched on 1st June with the help of UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett and a host of other UNHCR supporters, including Ben Stiller, Mika, Helen Mirren and Benedict Cumberbatch, the petition has already gained more than 475,000 signatures. It calls on governments to ensure that every refugee child gets an education, that all refugee families have somewhere safe to live and that all refugees can work or learn new skills to make a positive contribution to their communities.
Pledge your support http://withrefugees.org.
A Just So & Grey London Production
From Just So:
Executive Producer: Richard Ascott
Creative Directors: Jonny Madderson & Jono Stevens
Producer: Matt Diegan
Editor: Simon Hargood @ The Assembly Rooms [add pat]
DoP: Charlie Goodger, Luke Bryant, Daniel Venosa, Dominic Bartels
Score: Freddie Webb & Joe Farley @ Father
Sound Design: Iain Grant @ Father
Grade: Oisin O’Driscoll @ The Mill
Online: Brad Wood @ The Mill
Assistant Producer: Liv Proctor
Researchers: Sophie Perrins, Gideon Berends, Flora Hamilton, Gretha Viana, Lucy Chapman
From Grey London:
Head of Content Production/ Exec Producer: Jessica Ringshall
Creative Director: Andy Lockley & Peter Gatley
Copywriter: Stevie Rowing-Parker
Art Director: Emily Churches
Assistant Producer: Talia Shear
Account Director: Justine Deighan
CMO: Sarah Jenkins
Head of PR & Communication: Veronique Rhys Evans
Additional Footage Courtesy of: BBC, The Guardian, Journeyman TV, Associated Press, CNN, Christian Broadcast Network, Discover The Journey, Marc Silver, Nick Francis, Amnesty International, Lior Sperandeo, ITN Source, Samaritans Purse, Invisible Children, Jonathan Darby, Human Rights Watch.