Unsettled: Seeking Refuge in America – Film Review

Growing up as part of the LGBTQI+ community can be pretty difficult, but imagine how hard it would be in a country where being gay, lesbian or transgender is illegal, which it is in 70 countries around the world. People are often kidnapped, beaten, tortured and murdered due to their sexual orientation. Unsettled: Seeking Refuge in America tells the story of 4 people who have fled their home countries and become refugees in America to escape this persecution. 

In this documentary we meet Junior, a young man who grew up in Congo with his devout Christian family, who he was often threatened and even beaten by. He left his home and family and headed to Capetown in South Africa, but was still a target and later sought refugee status in America. 

Subhi is another young gay man, he left his town in Syria after in was stormed by Al Qaeda who kidnapped and killed gay men. He fled to several countries before finally securing refugee status in America.

The other two people the documentary focuses on is same sex couple Cheyenne and Mari, who fled their happy and successful life in Angola, as they were harassed by their neighbours for their sexual orientation, even killing their dog. The final straw was when a family member poisoned their food. The couple were able to secure refugee status soon after this.

The documentary is well constructed and does a great job of telling the stories of the four subjects, which aren’t easy stories to tell. They cover the true horror and paint a great picture of the lives that the people faced in their home countries. 

Even after escaping and obtaining refugee status, life doesn’t get any easier as they now face other challenges and struggles. Junior struggles to find stable housing, often having to move every few weeks, falls into alcoholism and is bouncing between jobs. After a rocky start Cheyenne and Mari are thriving, until Trump is elected president and must follow through on his election promise to send home the refugees. They must fight to keep their status and life in America, or face almost certain death if they are returned home.

I found the documentary to be fantastic and very intriguing. We often forget how great we have it in our country of Australia, where we can live our lives without death threats due to our orientation. The film was a real eye opener for me as a straight white male, and really made me feel for all involved. Unsettled: Seeking Refuge in America had me rooting for the documentary’s subjects at the end and wishing them a safe, healthy and stable life in America.

Unsettled: Seeking Refuge in America is part of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival. For more information, visit: https://mqff.com.au

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