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Fishermen’s rescue efforts of refugees stranded in the Aegean Sea documented in student film

A film created by two of our graduates, which tells the story of how fishermen on the island of Lesbos, Greece have been tirelessly helping to rescue refugees from the Mediterranean Sea, will be broadcast as part of the new series of Channel 4’s Random Acts on Thursday 10 November.

Elmaz Ekrem and Dominika Ożyńska, who both studied BA (Hons) Animation at UCA Farnham and graduated this year, created the short animation The Law of the Sea to explore the crisis from a different perspective. In January this year, the students travelled to Lesbos to interview the local fishermen who had witnessed and taken part in rescue efforts of refugees fleeing conflict and poverty.   

Elmaz, who is 21 and from Enfield, says: “The subject matter of this film, the war in Syria and the humanitarian crisis it has created, is a global issue. It is something that everyone should know about and has been affected by in some way. When an act of war is broadcast as a news story, or the image of another drowned innocent child goes viral, it is so easy for a nation to become spectators to a situation that they should be actively helping.

“Our film takes on a unique viewpoint, letting the voice of people who have taken on this responsibility of rescuing refugees be heard. The fishermen that we interviewed are not trained coastguards, but normal people like you and me who get up and go to work each day in order to provide for themselves and their families. These fishermen were never asked to help people as they made the deadly crossing, but they do so without question. The fishermen described how the daily rescue efforts of people on the dangerously-overcrowded boats had become a part of their normal routine, demonstrating how this massive humanitarian crisis has essentially become the norm.”

Dominika says: “The refugee crisis evoked many different reactions from different people in different countries - some were supportive while some opposed letting refugees into Europe. However, when I went to Lesbos, I was shocked that none of the fishermen or local people questioned whether to help refugees or not. The crisis affected them directly and turned their lives upside down. They still accepted it and did everything they could to help those that were coming to the island. I think it’s important to show people this perspective - one of unconditional help and support for those in need. Because for me, it’s not only the law of the sea - it is a universal law - if someone needs help, you help them. It’s easy to forget about it when the issues seem far away.” 

The animation took a total of seven months to make and, upon their return to the UK, the students selected the most telling interviews to use for their short film.

“After we had chosen which interviews and audio tracks to use, we began painting each frame using pictures of the fishermen we had taken in Lesbos as reference. The animation method used was a mix of acrylic on paper and oil on glass – a form of under camera technique,” adds Elmaz. “We’re incredibly excited for it to be broadcast on Random Acts and to tell the amazing stories of these fishermen to a much wider audience.”

Random Acts showcases short films which are chosen for their bold and original expressions of creativity. The Law of the Sea will air from midnight on Thursday 10 November.

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