Documentary on Syrian Refugees’ Impact on Jordanians Needs Funding

Daily Kos – 19 December 2013

by Yasuragi

Full disclosure: this is a pitch.

Not for me, but for a stranger, documentary filmmaker Richard Nield.

Nield has shot footage for a film that now needs funding for completion, and has only a scant few days in which to raise it.

I was drawn to his documentary, which is seeking Kickstarter funding, through a professional connection last week and was instantly engaged by its content.

From the Kickstarter page:

The untold story of the catastrophic impact of the Syrian refugee crisis on the poorest and most vulnerable people in Jordan.

Earlier this year cameraman James Stittle and I went to Jordan to tell the story of the Syrian refugee crisis from a unique perspective: that of the local Jordanian people whose lives have been affected by the challenge of hosting more than half a million Syrian refugees.

James and I travelled across the country filming interviews with the local people most affected by the crisis. With the help of some local contacts and NGOs, we were extremely privileged to be able to meet Jordanians in their homes in the two towns that have been most affected by the influx of refugees: Mafraq and Ramtha. They told us their personal stories about how they have been affected by the crisis.

What we found was really shocking. As tens of thousands of refugees arrive in the small towns near Jordan’s border with Syria, local schools and health facilities are being overrun. Aid organisations are being stretched to breaking point. People who were already on the poverty line before the refugee crisis are having to cope with tripling rents, ballooning food prices and an increasingly scarce supply of water.

You can see some of the footage and read more about the project here.

A recent piece on Nield and his partner offered this:

“I’ve been writing about the Middle East for many years, and when I found out what was happening in Jordan I decided that it was really important to bring the story to people’s attention,” said Richard.

“Aid organisations I was speaking to in Jordan were telling me that the country is on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe.”

Richard and James travelled to the Za’atari refugee camp, home to a staggering 140,000 refugees, and to the Syrian border where they witnessed refugees fleeing the fighting. As tens of thousands of refugees arrive in small Jordan towns, local schools, hospitals and agricultural and water infrastructures are being stretched to breaking point. Food prices are doubling and many locals are facing eviction from their homes as rents are rising.

Few documentary films ever see return on their investment.  Even more wither on the vine because they can’t raise the money necessary for completion and distribution.

For social activists, documentaries add a compelling narrative element to their struggle for social change. Film festivals buzz with exciting new non-fiction stories. Yet for the average filmgoer, the growing number of documentaries may fail to register amid Hollywood’s blockbusters. The percentage of box office revenue from documentaries remains minimal, representing only 1.7 percent of all movies at its highest peak in 2004.


In many cases, filmmakers are more concerned with social impact rather than financial success. In these situations, filmmakers often start without funding from a major producer or distributor, and instead raise funds throughout the filmmaking process from a variety of sources, such as grants and increasingly, crowdfunding platforms.

Making money from—let alone finishing—a documentary remains a great challenge, but their evident proliferation over the past ten years should encourage cautious optimism for the future. The long tail may not hold large profits, but it contains the seeds for influence and impact.

Emphasis mine.

I’ll be blunt: I don’t know enough about the situation in Jordan regarding Syrian refugees to have a political position on the situation, other than what my compassion tells me, which is that it’s a heartbreaking situation for all involved.  What I do know is that it’s excellent footage, and a compelling story — and that this appears to be a second serious humanitarian and environmental crisis (the one quickly arising in Jordan) piled on top of the first (the one in Syria).  I’m not here to debate the issue, as I’m only now educating myself about it.  I just want to bring the need for funding this documentary to this community’s attention.

The filmmaker’s bio (from the link above) reads:

I am an established international journalist, broadcaster and filmmaker with 10 years’ experience covering the Middle East and Africa. I have been published and broadcast by the BBC, Reuters, The Financial Times, The Independent, The Economist and Foreign Policy magazine. I have appeared on international news networks, written and presented programmes for BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service, and contributed Middle East expertise to BBC producers devising programming on the region. I am also fortunate to be working with a team of highly skilled film professionals.

Time is fast running out for the project: they have only until Monday to raise the necessary £15,000 (roughly $26,000 USD).

If this project speaks to you, and you or anyone else you know might want to help them meet their goal by Monday, please visit their page.

Necessary Disclaimer:  I don’t know the filmmaker.  I have no financial or professional interest in the film.  I am not connected to it in any way, personally or professionally.  This is just me reaching out to this community about a documentary that covers serious issues many of us here are deeply involved with.

Thanks for your time.

Comments are closed.

Richard Nield is a freelance journalist, photographer and filmmaker covering the Middle East and Africa. In 10 years covering the region, he has been published and broadcast by clients including the BBC, Reuters, Al Jazeera, The Economist, The Financial Times, The Independent and Foreign Policy magazine. He has reported from throughout the region, including Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, South Sudan, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.