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Three Sundance Films Highlight Syrian Refugee Crisis

Nicole Nixon

“Cries from Syria” is one of three documentaries at this year’s Sundance Film Festival that focus on the destruction in Syria. 

It draws on footage from Syrian activists and citizen journalists to show how country’s brutal civil war has unfolded. Kholoud Helmi is one of the activists featured in the film. At a panel discussion in Salt Lake City Wednesday, Helmi spoke about what makes the war in Syria unique to past humanitarian crises.

“We demonstrated for our fundamental rights but nobody stood beside us,” Helmi said. “In six years, everybody turned against us, even the United Nations. And now, only when the world was stuck by the refugee crisis, they started to shout and scream, ‘Oh my God, what are these refugees going to do in our countries?’”

Evgeny Afineevsky is the director of the film. During production, he met many Syrian refugees who wanted to contribute to society in their new homes, but were demonized.

“The biggest thing that I heard from most of the refugees in the European territories and also in the Middle East, they were struggling,” Afineevsky says. “They wanted to give something from themselves to the community, but nobody was allowing them.”

World Trade Center Utah President Derek Miller says he doesn’t think that’s a problem in this state. He encourages his colleagues in Utah’s business community to help.

“Whether it’s hiring refugees, helping to train refugees, being part of job fairs and providing opportunities for refugees, that’s an important part of making sure this process works,” he says.

Utah resettled about 1,200 refugees last year, including 80 from Syria, but that will probably change in 2017—this week President Donald Trump is expected to sign executive orders to block Syrian and other refugees from entering the United States.

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