Beating the Blues

16 December 2016

Blue moment

Cathy Denford is Artistic Director of Risky Things theatre & film. Here she writes about their educational film Blue Moment and explains how it can be used in the secondary classroom.

With more displaced people in the world than ever before, refugees are coming to Europe, and a small percentage of those are arriving now in the UK. KS3-4 young people in schools may well be aware of the young refugees, from Syria mainly, being given asylum here.

Blue Moment is a 45-minute, educational, online film drama made by safeguarding-drama specialists Risky Things for 15+ viewing. Devised with the Refugee Therapy Centre in London, it is based on real case studies of young refugees who have endured torture being helped to recovery here. We started work on it three years ago, because of the challenges that refugees and their support organisations were facing: reducing funds for social services and adverse public opinion fed by often ill-informed, anti-immigration media reporting. Telling true stories has only become more important since then, and the issue more high profile. The project has been funded by Big Lottery and sponsorships.

This film of resilience and solidarity uncovers the mystery of an 18-year-old Muslim woman from Africa who arrives in Britain after being tortured (in Nigeria) as a child of 14. Alongside her story are those of the therapist who helps her overcome her torture-trauma, and a local bus-driver who supports her, despite the suspicions of his partner and some colleagues. Vulnerable to racist abuse, Alia moves slowly through the challenging asylum process accused of terrorism. She becomes homeless and is raped, but is determined to survive.

School pupils will come to the film with a range of attitudes, reflecting the range of views expressed in the film. A PSHCE, teacher-led showing would create a safe space in which the issues could be debated, issues which relate to those of young viewers of colour who have secure citizenship here, but may not feel secure in the current hostile climate towards immigrants.

Misinformation that has been widely disseminated (for instance, during the Brexit campaign) can be corrected with accurate statistics from organisations such as the Migration Observatory at Oxford University (e.g. only 7% of immigrants are asylum seekers, 64% of asylum seekers are refused and the UK received only 3% of the asylum claims made across the EU).

Carefully handled, through the distancing prism of the Blue Moment story, the crucial development of humane attitudes can be encouraged, prejudice can be identified, labelled and discouraged, and abuse condemned.

In these challenging times of growing mental health problems amongst young people it should be widely relevant to watch how a young woman, dealing with depression in therapy, confronts her demons and is helped to recover from her trauma. Surviving her ordeal she can be an inspiration to her peers watching, who are protected from the stigma of direct association by her refugee situation.

The scenes of Alia suffering verbal and sexual abuse in the film will need to be discussed openly but carefully with safeguarding approaches that relate to each school’s particular anti-abuse strategy and support system: e.g. with child protection officers identified so that any pupil who wishes to disclose knows who to go to and what would then happen. Discussion of the abuse could indeed be used to initiate and develop new support systems within the school, such as anti-racist buddying. Pupils should be directed to online support links they can access confidentially from the training notes that are available online, where the film can be downloaded via this link: www.riskythings.co.uk/work-sectors/refugees/

Rough sleeping scenes in the film can draw discussion to consideration of homelessness, the housing shortage…or wherever the teacher feels inclined to go:…‘mindfulness’ consideration of how lucky most of us are to have warm homes…if we can afford the heating bill….

‘Alia felt very real; I can see the film engaging both heart and intellect’
Heather Boyce, Head of Education Development, Anne Frank Trust.

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