I believe in the power of documentaries to engage hearts and minds beyond the screen and to challenge public attitudes. When the war in Syria started in 2011, I kept seeing Syrian refugees sleeping on the streets of Istanbul and watched with sorrow their hungry faces too proud to beg for money. I decided to film the human faces of this tragedy.

The first documentary I directed on the Syrian crisis was about the schooling problems of refugee kids at the Turkish-Syrian border right after the war began in March 2011.1 This is also when I was introduced to Mahmoud, a Syrian journalist who had just escaped to Turkey. He and I met at a café in Istanbul to talk about whether he would be my translator for the film, since I do not speak Arabic. Mahmoud’s...

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