Local Filmmaker Sounds the Alarm on Global Refugee Crisis with Release of New Documentary

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Posted by Richmond 2day staff




RICHMOND – A local videographer is sounding the alarm on the global refugee crisis and the creeping rise of fascism in Europe. With the release of “Fata Morgana,” a documentary produced by Jen Lawhorne and two African refugees, Lawhorne hopes to educate the public on the problems facing African refugees in Europe. Click here to watch the trailer.

“People in Central America and Mexico aren’t the only ones escaping war and violence. There are people all over the world encountering similar situations who are choosing to leave their homelands in search of a better life in more developed countries,” Lawhorne said. “Unfortunately, the door is being slammed in their faces by governments who are dealing with a backlash of anti-immigrant sentiment in their countries. What’s happening in the United States isn’t an isolated event.”

Lawhorne was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 2015 to live in Sicily and make a documentary with refugees about their experiences living in a new country. “Fata Morgana” was co-produced by Lawhorne and Ebrima and Toumani, two young men from Gambia and Mali trying to establish themselves in the Sicilian city of Messina. The documentary shifts the cinematic gaze over to the eyes of the refugees who filmed more than half of the documentary’s footage.




Everyday, hundreds of people set off in boats from the coast of Libya bound for Europe in search of a better life. Escaping war, poverty and famine, the people hope they arrive in a land that can offer safety and better opportunities. Many die in the journey while others are rescued at sea and taken to ports in southern European countries where they begin their new lives as refugees. “Fata Morgana” explores the circumstances the refugees left behind and the situations they encounter on a new continent. The documentary also discusses the rise of right-wing, xenophobic politicians in Italy who are capitalizing off the crisis by scapegoating refugees for the country’s economic problems.

A Richmonder who holds a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and a master’s degree in film studies from Virginia Commonwealth University, Lawhorne has long engaged in the telling different immigration stories. Her 2009 documentary, “The Little Trip of a Dream,” explored the lives of undocumented kitchen workers in Richmond and what they left behind in Mexico. Lawhorne currently works as media specialist for a political advocacy organization, Progress VA, and teaches documentary filmmaking to area young people through ART 180.

“Fata Morgana” premieres Monday, July 23 at 6 p.m. at the Main Library of the Richmond Public Library.


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