The true story of Ahmad, a seven year old Afghan refugee, who fled from his home with his brother to find safety in Europe. He’s trapped in the back of a refrigerated lorry along with fourteen other refugees trying to reach the UK, when the air inside begins to run out. As the other men’s efforts to escape fail, it falls to Ahmad to try to save them all.
OKSIJAN is written and directed by Emmy award-winner Edward Watts (Escape from Isis 2015), shot by Michael Paleodimos, the cinematographer of 2016 Academy Award-winning short “Stutterer” and stars Ella Purnell (Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children 2016).
We are determined to change the perception of refugees. No matter where you come from, everyone knows what it’s like to be a seven year old child afraid of the dark. This could be any one of us. We would all do anything to ensure the safety of our families. We hope this film will encourage a humane and empathetic response to those in crisis.
To tell this story, we knew authenticity would be paramount. The script was based on extensive interviews with the real young Ahmad and his older brother Jawad - Oksijan’s main protagonists. Much of the set and the costumes came from donations provided to refugees in Calais and then lent to us by the UK charity Help Refugees. We also worked closely with a number of refugees to ensure we portrayed their journeys realistically and indeed a number of these real refugees appear in the film playing Ahmad’s fellow stowaways.
The film has been made partly with a view to raising awareness for the work of the UK Charity Help Refugees and their partners Phone Credit for Refugees. Help Refugees was founded in September 2015 in response to the escalating refugee crisis to provide aid and advocate for refugees. They support over 70 projects worldwide with funding, food, shelter and volunteers. Their mandate is to fill the gaps left by governments and large NGOs, they respond to the genuine needs of refugees and displaced populations in a fast, flexible and empowering way.
Together with Phone Credit for Refugees, they played an integral role in Ahmad's story, and in the stories of hundreds of thousands of refugees across Europe.
We currently face the greatest refugee crisis since World War Two. Thousands of children have been through exactly the same experience as Ahmad. And yet right-wing media and politicians vilify them as a swarm of terrorists and parasites. Ahmad’s story is the loudest possible answer to that demonisation, a clarion call that highlights our shared humanity and the injustice of a system that forces children to endure such horrors.
Edward Watts, Writer & Director
Visit Ed's website to see more of his work.