• Film opens ceremony at Kabul international bridge • Refugees tell of suffering in Afghanistan
Thousands of Afghans a day cross borders, 'even if it means our death'
An Afghan refugee girl sits by her tent, in an informal settlement near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian
A film about the plight of Afghan refugees, with scenes from real life, was screened at the inauguration of the Kabul international bridge in Kabul on Thursday night.
In contrast to the awful words of the man who opened the ceremony, Indian civil aviation minister Nirmala Sitharaman, the film, Standing Alone, appears to be a heartwarming tale of the hardships of refugees.
The film has been made by Canada’s Dimapur Hill Films, which was given the award for best feature documentary by Gogo Dem, India’s director of parliamentary services, and Canadian writer Don Daniel.
A screen grab from the film Standing Alone. Photograph: Dimapur Hill Films
The film uses light-hearted moments to convey the anxiety many Afghan refugees experience every day crossing the border. It is based on interviews with refugees who have spent years illegally crossing the border by land into Pakistan. The refugees are concerned they could be arrested, shot or kidnapped if they are caught and deported back to Afghanistan.
Film-maker Sean Kollemay said he had hoped to produce a film showing their full humanity but it was not easy to get permission to travel to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“I was frustrated trying to find the right way to do it and make it positive but with all the truth and a great message,” he said.
Kollemay said: “It feels almost like we are saying: we haven’t left yet, even if it means our death.”
The opening ceremony to mark the opening of the Kabul international bridge, Afghanistan. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian
Film-maker Sean Kollemay said he had tried to portray the courage and kindness of Afghan refugees. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian
Kollemay was inspired to make the film after discovering that many of the police officers who work at the border consider Afghan refugees “illegal aliens”.
“There was one story [about a raid] where they were just throwing darts at people’s heads,” he said. “The issue of border security is really there and they aren’t addressed.”
Kollemay said the video would be shown to the Canadian and Afghan prime ministers, Justin Trudeau and Abdullah Abdullah, who spoke at the ceremony.
“We are trying to raise awareness about refugees in a non-political way,” he said. “It’s not about politics, it’s about human rights.”