Edge of the Valley

A Norwegian Refugee Council film

This World Children's Day, we take an intimate look into the pandemic's lasting impact on refugee children who are living on the fringes of society.

Filmed in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, our new short documentary features Darine, a nine-year-old refugee girl contemplating her increasingly bleak future after being forced to drop out of school in the midst of Lebanon’s unprecedented economic collapse and battle with Covid-19.

Watch the film

Q&A with the director

NRC's Rebecca Crombleholme spoke with director Daniel Wheeler about the making of the film and the importance of keeping conversations like those addressed in the film going.

What motivated you to make this film?

Last year, I made a film called Stressed: A Pandemic of Fear which exposed the alarming rise in stress levels amongst displaced children in the Middle East caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. While the film was in production, the world was experiencing the largest disruption to education in human history and a global mental health crisis. Nearly a year later, as much of the world begins to return to relative normality, we were keen to explore the pandemic’s longer-term impact on those refugee children and examine how it was affecting their wellbeing. The sad reality is that the pandemic has forced many children out of school and into child labour; we made this film with the hope of making this issue more visible through providing an intimate and sensitive portrait of one of those children.

What were the challenges in covering this story?

Due to the sensitive nature of what we were trying to film, we spent months working closely with Darine and her family to provide an accurate glimpse into her situation. We carefully negotiated access to be able to film Darine at work. During filming, we were only allowed to film Darine and a few other workers, however we were not able to spin the cameras around and show the 50 plus other children working in that field, some of whom we suspect are as young as six years old. It’s challenging to depict the scale of the issue when you are not able to film the overall picture. So, we continually asked ourselves ‘how do we tell the story of so many children through Darine?’

Recent studies show that Lebanon’s refugee community have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic and economic collapse, with 99 per cent of Syrian families reported to be living in poverty. Photo: NRC

Recent studies show that Lebanon’s refugee community have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic and economic collapse, with 99 per cent of Syrian families reported to be living in poverty. Photo: NRC

Why is it so important to highlight stories like Darine’s?

Many people are not aware of the pandemic’s fallout on the world’s displaced communities due to a lack of mainstream media coverage. That’s why it’s so important for organisations like NRC to provide a window into these children’s lives. All too often, we hear experts talking about issues affecting children, but rarely do we hear the children's voices. That’s why, from the outset of making this film, I believed it should be Darine telling her own story.

What do you hope the impact of the film will have on audiences?

I wholeheartedly believe in the power of stories to build bridges and allow people all over the world to share in the lives of others and ultimately, help them understand each other. I hope that Darine’s story elicits an emotional response from audiences and compels people to recognise the importance of education for the future of these children. Darine is now attending online education support from NRC but there are millions of children across the world who have been forced to drop out of school with little hope of ever returning. If we stop telling these stories, if we forget these children exist, we risk losing an entire generation of children to the pandemic.


Directed, produced, and edited by: DANIEL WHEELER 
Associate producer: ZAYNAB MAYLADAN
Cinematography: KARIM GHORAYEB 
Sound design: ANDREJ BAKO
Assistant editor: AMY VAN DRUNEN
Second camera operator: JIHAD SAADE
Sound recordist: ELIA EL HADDAD
Drone operator: HAROUT BAJIKIAN

This film was made possible thanks to the generous support of Education Cannot Wait.