A single mother shows us the consequences of closing America’s doors to families fleeing war. With no answer to her application for resettlement in the US, and every other path to safety closed off, a smuggler’s raft to Europe was the only way out. 8 Borders, 8 Days is her story; the intimate details of why a fiercely-determined mother is willing to risk her children’s lives for a better future and an immersive experience of their eight-day journey to safety.
I first saw Sham’s bravery in action the day I arrived in Lesbos, Greece, in September 2015. We were outside of a sports stadium among Greek riot police and more than 10,000 refugees who had rushed to the scene to obtain government permits that would allow them to continue the journey to mainland Europe. Sham approached a baton-wielding officer and demanded he make a separate line for women and children away from the men, and he did.
This fearlessness is what drew me to Sham. I had flown to Lesbos with the intention of filming a short video about the conditions on the island, but I was so moved by her strength in spite of the circumstances that I couldn’t walk away. I saw a woman thriving at a time when everyone around her was helpless. I was curious to know what would happen to Sham because she is the best-case scenario: resourceful and fiercely determined.
As an American who has lived in Beirut, at the nexus of the Syrian refugee crisis, I felt particularly compelled to make this film. When I first met Sham in Beirut in July 2015, I was searching for a way to discuss what I saw as America’s failure to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis until that point. Lebanon, a country with very few resources, hosts 1.5 million Syrian refugees, while the U.S. had accepted only 2,000 refugees from Syria since the war started.
I wanted to show the human consequences of this.
I never imagined that the immigration issue in the U.S. would become as explosive as it has today, but this is exactly why 8 Borders, 8 Days is more important than ever. The main character is a single mother of two fleeing war who was denied resettlement to the U.S. She had gone to the embassy for an interview, submitted to medical tests, attended language and culture classes arranged by the embassy, and still she was not accepted.As a result, she took a raft across the sea with her two young children. Their story shows us, as Americans, the direct consequence of closing our doors to people fleeing war.
Sham’s story is one that can cut through fear and misinformation, and humanize the issue for an American audience. She is a strong woman determined to find a safe space where she and her kids can be self-sufficient and thrive. Her story is highly relatable: like all parents, Syrian parents want what is best for their children.
My hope is that Sham’s story and our shared journey will inspire people to make changes in their own lives by opening their hearts and communities to people fleeing violence and persecution.
DIRECTOR/PRODUCER: Amanda Bailly
CAST:Sham, Yaman, Eylan (Lulu)
CO-WRITER: Joseph Singer
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Amr Kokash
ORIGINAL MUSIC: Anthony Sahyoun
EDITOR: Joseph Singer
ANIMATOR: Kalika Kharkar Sharma
ILLUSTRATOR: Diala Brisly
SOUND: Cedric Kayem
COLOR: Belal Hibri