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Silence Heard Loud (World Premiere) shares stories of refugee experiences in the UK

Photo (c) Silence Heard Loud film, by Anna Konik

Fiilm participants share what they hope audiences will take away from hearing their stories. 

Written by Shazia Khawaja, Together Films

Since 2012, the UK’s “hostile environment policy” for refugees has resulted in unnecessary obstacles for  those seeking asylum; people often fleeing from persecution and violence as they try to rebuild their lives in the UK. In Anna Konik’s Silence Heard Loud we hear first hand from seven refugees on their experience of finding home again and trying to become a part of a new UK community. The film is being screened online as part of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival from now until March 25. We heard from some of Silence Heard Loud’s subjects about their experiences and hopes for the film.  

What did the experience of telling your story in the film SILENCE HEARD LOUD mean to you?  

Nirmala Madushani: “I feel liberated to tell my story as a woman of colour so that our society can learn how difficult it is to be a woman from a marginalised group and to be a victim of domestic violence. Telling my story was so important to me as it really proved that I was treated differently even when my life was in danger only because I was a coloured immigrant woman. There wasn't any law to protect me or other immigrant domestic violence victims for a long time. Therefore, so many vulnerable immigrant women were not able to leave their abusive environment.  When some victims left and reported to the authorities, they then became Home Office deportation targets. Unfortunately, I also got caught up in this situation.  I felt that I was just a number for the Home Office and became one of the victims of a politically motivated witch hunt as a result of the hostile environment policies.  After what I experienced, I wanted to stand against social inequality and injustice.  I wanted to give a voice to my experience so other people can learn how social inequality has a negative effect on under-privileged people in society.  I hope by telling my story this will also encourage women to leave abusive relationships and rebuild their lives.  After all, we should never be victims forever.  We should always move forward to freedom.  “     


What do you hope audiences who watch SILENCE HEARD LOUD at the HRWFF London will take away from the film?  

Michael Darko: “The main point I hope that the audiences who watch SILENCE HEARD LOUD will take away is that no human person leaves the comfort of their home and loved ones to become a refugee. Our silence of abuse, trauma and shame is at times a helpful armour to put on to save face, be accepted and liked by others and most importantly, to not scare white Europeans. The unconscious fear of the other, which continues to navigate the human relations between white Europeans towards brown, black and non-white people, must be first acknowledged and valued so that we can do away the myths and dehumanisation which will facilitate the environment to affect meaningful change. The unconscious fear of the other is also a heavy armour for the white European who fears to lose what it means to be a white European, culture etc. The amour of silence restricts people from speaking openly about their fears of the other, as they can be seen as racist or be made a centre of focus for everyone to point fingers at and project every negative thought about the other onto this individual. In doing so, the rest can satisfy themselves to think they are good people. I firmly believe that there are no good or bad people; we are all simply people, capable of good and bad. If we are both able to put down our armour, we will realise that there is no other….” 


Njideka Obi: “Silence Heard Loud is a paradox where compassion, caring, emotional sharing, and deep communication are all drowned out within the sound of silence resulting in considerable amount of distress. It is about the inability of people to communicate, not in terms of plain language, or international issues, but rather spiritually and emotionally. The premise of my thought is that only by understanding how migrants themselves experience forced migration, their perspectives, and their needs, will governments, policy makers, practitioners, and the members of the public be able to get involved to determine how best the policies should be reformed to ensure fairness, inclusion, effectiveness, equity, and sustainability.    

I’m keen to share my lived experience of migration and the UK border controls with a wider audience and a public-facing blog documenting it is a good chance. The aim primarily is about advancing our knowledge and understanding of the world we live in with reference to the forced migrants. Participating in this project offered a vital chance for me to bring a unique insight into the plight of migrants to the notice of the audience.  

While I see what is going on with this often-neglected group in our society, where they feel hemmed in by a humanly fabricated existence that keeps them from experiencing the rest of the world; that keeps their focus on what is close at hand rather than reaching out and expanding their horizons. I find no way to communicate this truth to others but through mediums like this. 

Silence has a voice: a continuous, high-pitched inner sound like white noise in the background. It is a sound that is beginningless and endless. This project is intended to contribute to not only academic knowledge and debate, but to have relevance and illuminate the role migration plays in our society, revitalising ways we think about migration and more accurately reflecting the reality of inclusive lived experience and therefore more effective in addressing it.  

Because most people have no real in-depth understanding of the meaning of the plight of refugees, they seem incapable of doing anything to change it. Knowledge and awareness will empower the audience to fully engage in supporting the call on the government to "create more safe routes" for refugee families from a camp or conflict/war zone (e.g., Ukraine) to come directly to the UK. To walk beside them as they rebuild their lives and help them integrate in the light of love and belief of a better kind of humanity. This is a way of (lifting up voices) who are more typically thought of as vulnerable and passive victims and might help to bring the ‘invisible’ forced migrant into view.” 


Silence Heard Loud is screening virtually as part of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival until March 25th. You can also tune in to a replay of our live conversation following the opening night screening here.  

We do not want cost to be a barrier to watching these films, free tickets are available on a first come, first serve basis. Email filmticket@hrw.org for a free ticket code to any screening.