April 12, 2021

Created for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), The Journey is an evocative portrait of the struggles that refugee athletes have overcome

The Journey is a fictional story that illustrates some of the struggles a female refugee has overcome after being forced to flee her home to escape conflict. Without ever showing her face, the film depicts a story of resilience and hope which then turns into athletic success via the Refugee Olympic team. 

Created by agency Don’t Panic and directing collective Pantera, the film was made in consultation with two refugee athletes hoping to compete at this year’s games, Rose Nathike Lokonyen and Asif Sultani, as well as the UNHCR and the UN Refugee Agency. The intention throughout was to create an accurate, if dramatised, portrayal of a refugee’s journey.

“One of our biggest challenges creatively was to make an emotionally impactful film, whilst keeping the protagonist anonymous,” says Rick Dodds, creative partner at Don’t Panic. “We chose to show only her legs, as this allows our film to be representative of many refugees’ journeys. Emotion so often comes from a person’s face, their expression, the look in their eyes, the words they say and with this film, we simply had a pair of legs. 

“We also quickly realised that we couldn’t have her running in every single scene as the film would only have one note. So the choreography of her movements, when she’s walking, turning, stopping, sitting, became our most vital tool to create emotion.”

There are currently over 60 refugee Para athletes and athletes training in the hope of competing at the Tokyo 2021 Olympic and Paralympic Games. “The story of The Journey is similar to my own and that of my fellow refugee athletes,” says Lokonyen, who was also a member of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team in Rio 2016. “I’m training hard in the hope to get to Tokyo. I want to help people everywhere better understand the lives of refugees and the power sport can have to change lives.”

New film shows the stories of resilience behind the Refugee Olympic team
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