What initially attracted me to making this film was the experience I gained from watching a previous performance by Treehouse Theatre. Watching the live show is an eye-opening, emotional rollercoaster, and my intention is that the film will reflect this in its own way, whilst providing new insight into the complex process of forced migration.
Setting out we were only really sure of one thing – the foundation for a story existed and was waiting to be discovered. We could never imagine meeting such dynamic characters and we were unsure how the year would unfold. This is the beauty of observational documentary. On several occasions we were surprised, and I believe audiences will be too.
Our key subjects are children who have survived dangerous exile at the expense of the idea of childhood, and the adults who believe they have a bright future. The film’s central themes are dealt with by our participants on a daily basis: the concept of belonging, acceptance and the vulnerabilities associated with being both young and foreign.
I am fascinated by the notion that you can control your memories of trauma, rather than letting those memories control you. Humour is a crucial element in the film, both as a coping mechanism for students, and as comic relief for our audience.
This documentary has been a huge undertaking, and for me, represents the first creative project of this kind and of this magnitude. At every step of the way, I have sought guidance from experienced practitioners. The ongoing relationships we have built up with our subjects, our sensitivity to the subject matter and our passion for storytelling are some of our key strengths.
Like many, I have been frustrated by the imbalanced media representation on this issue, and the absence of a voice for refugee communities. We began pre-production in December 2012, and the plethora of media and political debate on the issue since that time has further spurred me on to deliver this ultimately uplifting story about the triumph of the human spirit and the ability of young minds to overcome post-traumatic stress.
The “storm” metaphor is evoked by the class to describe experiences of war and persecution, however in our current climate, there are multiple ways to define the storm, and what truly symbolises an escape from its stranglehold.
With this, we explore the far-reaching, personal ramifications of global conflict.
I placed particular emphasis on spending ample time with our participants prior to the commencement of filming. As we were getting to know them, they were also getting to know us and together, we developed a high level of trust. We approached this aspect with a great deal of care, to ensure our subjects felt comfortable with our presence, and this has provided huge dividends.