Top Spot of the Week: Director Andzej Gavriss, Don’t Panic, Ukranian Refugees Show Trauma of Fleeing War In UN Short


Robert Goldrich
Wednesday, Jun. 15, 2022


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As World Refugee Day (June 20) approaches, UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, has released a powerful short film called Uprooted. At a time when the global displacement crisis has reached 100 million people worldwide, the hero film features Ukrainian refugees and sends a message of support to all refugees around the world. Uprooted shows the trauma felt by this community as refugees get back to their roots and form a human tree.

Uprooted was directed by Stink Films’ Andzej Gavriss who wrote the human tree concept with Ukrainian choreographer Konstantin Koval and Don’t Panic London’s creative partner, Rick Dodds. Production took place in Berlin, Germany where many Ukrainian refugees have landed since fleeing their homes. In total, over 50 refugees from Ukraine were involved in the project including all the talent featured in the film. Adding to the authenticity and their connection to the film, the actors’ wardrobe incorporated an item of clothing they wore when fleeing their country. 

Uprooted will be shown in cinema theatres throughout the U.K. and released globally on social media along with the three companion films; Meet Olya, Meet the team and Dear Refugee. In Meet Olya, we hear how the lead actor is actually playing herself, and to this day hasn’t seen her parents again. In Meet the team we hear from more members of the cast and crew, what they experienced and why they were compelled to make this film. In Dear Refugee we see Ukrainian refugees receive letters of support from refugees from other parts of the world such as South Sudan and Cameroon.

UNHCR spokesperson Joung-ah Ghedini-Williams commented, “In a matter of months, the war in Ukraine has triggered one of the fastest-growing displacement and humanitarian crises on record.  Tragically, millions have been forced to flee their homes. Once people have reached safety, it is incredibly difficult to overcome the trauma of war, violence and persecution. That is why providing support like psychosocial counselling and working with host communities as they welcome  refugees is essential for the long term recovery of all those who have fled war like those from Ukraine and around the world. As this film so powerfully shows - refugees need our continued embrace and our unwavering support  to survive the trauma and memories of war.”

Director/co-writer Gavriss said, “Since the war broke out, I have been hearing many stories from Ukrainian refugees detailing the debilitating effects of PTSD. The subject felt so important, yet not much was being said in the public. After speaking with many Ukrainian friends and long-time collaborators, we decided to make a film together and use our art as our way of contributing. It was important that we cast real refugee actors in the film to tell their own stories. Despite all the pain, the film ends with a message of hope and unity--to stand together and give strength to one other.”

London agency Don’t Panic’s Dodds added,  “From conception to delivery, refugees from Ukraine have been at the heart of the team. Not only have their first hand experiences been woven into the script, but their talents as an Actor, Dancer, Choreographer is what makes this film so powerful. The companion films are also incredibly moving, as it’s the first time I can remember hearing from refugees with job titles similar to our own. As creative professionals they are all at the top of their game.”

Blake Powell, Stink’s global head of film, shared, “From the moment Andzej told me about his idea for this film, it was imperative we get it made and bring in the right people. I called Rick (Don’t Panic) who suggested collaborating with the UN Refugee Agency. From there, Rick, Andzej, and UNHCR, worked tirelessly together to mould and shape the idea. We are incredibly proud of the outcome and hope it raises awareness and support for the many brave refugees around the world.”


Client UNHCR - The UN Refugee Agency  Agency Don’t Panic, London Jennifer Clare Houlihan, executive producer; Ani Bosco, jr. producer; Rick Dodds, creative director/writer. Production Stink Films Andzej Gavriss, director/writer; Konstantin Koval, writer/choreographer; Albert Salas, DP/ Julija Fricsone Gavriss, production designer & human tree doncept; Margarita Shekel, costume designer; Blake Powell, Thomas Bartl, exec producers; Marc Haferbusch, producer; Lukas Rotter, jr. producer. Editorial David Gesslbauer, editor. Casting Germany Trober Casting Elena Tarakanova, casting director; Katia Nefeld, Ulyana Snitko, casting producers. Audio Basis Berlin Postproduktion Julian Holzapfel, sound design & mixing; Frieda Oberlin, head of production. Music “Hej, Sokoly!,” song by Mavka; Maciej Kamienski, composer; Iryna Lazer, arrangement & singer. Additional Music Production MassiveMusic Berlin Tip van den Box, composer. VFX Time Based Arts James Allen, Mike Skrgatic, creative directors; Matt Shires, Sam Osborne, VFX supervision. Matt Shires, Oliver Ramsey, Stephen Grasso, Ria Shroff, Will Robinson, Eleonora Laddago, Viola Bascombe, 2D team; Nick Smalley, Bethan Williams, Ihor Obukhovskyi, Zoe Sottiaux, 3D team; Lewis Crossfield, colorist; Sean Ewins, line producer; Tom Johnson, managing director.

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