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Reel Refugees: The 2nd Annual WNY Refugee Film Festival

The Only Film Festival of Its Kind in the U.S.

For the second year in a row, Journey’s End Refugee Services will be running its Annual WNY Refugee Film Festival (WNYRFF). The film festival, considered “the only festival of its kind in the US,” gives an inside glimpse into the world of refugees, through the eyes of filmmakers whom have intimate views of the displaced populations. The spearheading of Reel Refugees: the WNY Refugee Film Festival (WNYRFF) comes at a time when the United States is at a crossroads, torn between those who want to build a wall, and those who want to the country to be a safe haven for people who can no longer survive in their home countries. 

According to Journey’s End Executive Director Karen Andolina Scott, “As our nation is at a historical crossroads regarding the future of refugee resettlement, our film festival will not only entertain filmgoers, but give people a more nuanced and humanistic glimpse beyond the headlines into the global refugee and migration crisis.”

Stephanie Ching, co-director of WNYRFF’s Grand Finale film, After Spring, executive produced by former Daily Show host Jon Stewart, understands the plight of refugees better than most. “This isn’t something that’s happening on the other side of the world to people that are so unlike us. This is happening with every generation for regular people,” said Ching, whose grandmother fled the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during World War II and later emigrated from China to the U.S. . “I’m a direct product of people welcoming refugees.”

“So much of the refugee experience is spoken of, but so little of it is witnessed. Steph Ching and Ellen Martinez, directors of After Spring, did an amazing job of capturing it in a way that allows you to stand back and let the stories speak for themselves. It’s not judgmental. It’s not propagandized. It’s not polemic. It’s just existential.” – Jon Stewart, Executive Producer, After Spring and former host, The Daily Show

This film festival continues to open doors for those whose voices have been stifled. Instead of sitting back, and being trodden upon further, this group has decided to fight back through film. Just listen to what some of the filmmakers say, about the importance of this type of festival:

Sofian Khan, co-director of the film kicking off WNYRFF in September, said, “We’re honored to have our film The Interpreters make its Buffalo premiere at the 2019 Western New York Refugee Film Festival. At a time when the President and his administration are seeking to close the door on refugees from all over the world, the kinds of stories this festival is giving a platform to are now more important than ever.”

“I truly believe platforms like film and theatre are accessible mediums for those who desire to get their story out into the world, like the Rohingya refugee children acting out their stories in my film. Theatre can bring to life issues and injustices and place them a few feet away from you, and make you feel what the actors feel. In my experience, all it takes is one story to change the world.” – Yusuf Zine, Director, I Am Rohingya: A Genocide in Four Acts

Refugee was a very challenging film to produce. The making of the documentary spanned a journey across nine countries, capturing hundreds of hours of footage, and took three years of hard work to assemble. We took our time to ensure we captured the full lifecycle of a refugee, not just the journey, but also the assimilation and integration process. Our mission when we started the film was to show the human story, not the political one, and to remove the negative stigma surrounding refugees. While the tale of the Alali family was a difficult one to witness, we hope that by sharing their story it will have a lasting impact creating compassion and understanding for refugees.” – Francesco Loschiavo, Producer, Refugee

For a complete schedule and more details on the films to be screened as part of the WNY Refugee Film Festival, visit:

Featured films

See film schedule

Film passes

Thanks to Journey’s End for offering a platform of this nature, to showcase a world where everyone matters.


Written by queenseyes


Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside, Buffalo Porchfest, and Paint vs. Paint. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market on Elmwood. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at Statler City, the Hertel Alley Street Art Festival, and The Flutterby Festival.

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