Scrutinising the Immigration System Through Collaborative Filmmaking with Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Can a collaborative filmmaking process provide an empowering space for refugees and asylum seekers? Can filmmaking be used as a critical tool in examining the current immigration system? This research seeks to scrutinise the immigration system through collaborative filmmaking.

Media representations of refugees and asylum seekers have played a damaging role in shaping public attitudes and perceptions of migration. Films frequently stumble into a range of problematic depictions, patronising subjects, sensationalising issues and reinforcing negative tropes, focusing scrutiny on refugees rather than the institutional mechanisms responsible for their harmful experiences.

This project aims to incorporate refugee voices through a collaborative forum that enables refugees to scrutinise the system. It aims to create a space where refugees can have agency over the labyrinthine system they must navigate. It will result in a critical filmic representation of the institutional structures and actors involved in creating and sustaining the immigration system that negatively impacts their lives and will explore questions around the effective visual portrayal of these processes and how collaborative filmmaking can provide an educational and empowering space for refugees and asylum seekers.

What is being created?

Utilising the empowering and critical potential of filmmaking, this research team will produce a film on the UK immigration system. The ideas for this will emerge from valuable conversations in workshops and development meetings. Through the ideation and production of this film, participants will grapple with representational or aesthetic strategies in portraying the immigration system: should the focus lie on the institutions, social actors and/or spaces in which the border policies are maintained?

The workshops and processes will be recorded, and a blog hosted on the Migration and Mobilities Institute website will include posts and images from the project team reflecting on key stages, discoveries and challenges of the project as it develops.

The Brigstow “Creativity and Policy. Work in Progress” video below gives a glimpse into Subject to Scrutiny’s research process. Hear the team discuss different approaches to explore immigration policies from the perspectives of those directly affected along side experimental partnership Kept Apart: Making prose poetry with people separated from families by the immigration system.

Who are the team and what do they bring?

  • Dr Nariman Massoumi (Film and Television) is a practice-as-research filmmaker focused on family documentary, autoethnography and displacement. He is the coordinator of the research strand ‘Imagination, Belonging, Futures’ of Migration Mobilities Bristol.
  • Alice Cutler (Bristol Refugee Rights) will work closely on the project’s co-design and implementation. This will enable the team to ensure that the process and outcomes are of benefit to asylum seekers.
  • Prof Bridget Anderson’s (Sociology, Politics and International Studies, and Migration Mobilities Institute) work explores the tension between the labour market and citizen rights and looks to understand the functions of immigration in key labour market sectors. Bridget has worked closely with migrant organisations, trade unions and legal practitioners.
  • Dr Katie Bales (Law) is a member of the Sanctuary Scholarships working group and a trustee of the Bristol City of Sanctuary. Katie’s research takes a critical approach to the reception conditions for forced migrants in the UK, particularly in relation to welfare, work and access to higher education.
  • Irene Elizabeth