The crisis in Ukraine has again focused world attention on the plight of refugees and mass migration. It has also challenged journalists to report on the issue in a way that reflects the nuances of the situation and the importance of humanising and contextualising the story.
Few journalists have shown a greater insight or determination to give an accurate representation of the reality of life as a displaced person than Preethi Nallu. Her documentary ‘Norway’s Afghan Sons’ was co-funded by the Thomson Foundation and broadcast on Al Jazeera.
In it, she documented the complex realities that influence the migration decisions of young Afghans who are fleeing conflict, instability, destitution and persecution. It is a story she followed over a number of years and says that since the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan in August 2021, migration flows have surged.
“Without the grant from Thomson Foundation, I would not have been able to start working on this film which started as only four minutes but gradually transformed into a 40 minute documentary spanning four countries – Norway, Spain, France and Afghanistan – over a period of 18 months,” says Preethi. “For independent journalists like me, grants and recognition such as the Migration Media Award provide crucial incentives to continue building thematic storytelling with greater depth and wider reach.”
Preethi feels a personal commitment to the issue as someone born in Iran, raised in India and educated in the USA and Europe. She says a core purpose of her reporting has been to counter the mainstream media narratives that portray migration as a deviation from the norm.
The latest version of her film, entitled ‘Mama’, shows the main character, Javed, beginning a new life in Spain and includes previously unseen footage from Afghanistan.
“One of the things that you notice when you cover migration is that it's a story that continues to evolve,” says Preethi. “So it was very natural for me to revisit Javed when he received asylum in Spain, restarted his life and was reunited with his mother and brother. That would be the beginning of a new chapter in this migration story.
“The power of documentary lies in the fact that the film or the reportage is not the end of the project, but the launching point of a much longer conversation. So I've used ‘Mama' as a way of exploring the current realities that are prompting the flight of Afghans as they arrive in different parts of Europe.
I have used my film as an educational tool to look at the current situation in Afghanistan – and how all of us should be aiding the short and long-term recovery of Afghans.
'Mama' is showing at film festivals and private screenings in Europe and North America. For a viewing in your location, please contact Preethi: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The full film can be seen here and on our YouTube channel.
Preethi is one of a number of journalists whose work on the issue of refugees was recognised through the OPEN Media Hub (OMH) – an EU-funded initiative for which the Thomson Foundation was the leading implementer.
David Quin, managing director – development for the foundation says: “We have acknowledged the best and often bravest in migration coverage from across the spectrum. Journalists covering not just crisis but context, human faces behind statistics, challenges to communities.”
Images courtesy of Preethi Nallu