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From War in Syria to Cannes and Oscars’ Red Carpets


From War in Syria to Cannes and Oscars’ Red Carpets

8 June 2019 Also available in:
"I remember the first day we came here. I got in a fight with a kid and he threw a stone at me. It’s been hard, “ Zain recalls his first days as a refugee in Lebanon.

Smiling shyly in front of a packed Cannes Film Festival audience, 13-year-old Syrian refugee Zain Al Rafeaa soaked up the applause of movie stars and film industry luminaries. “I felt paralyzed, totally paralyzed,” he said.

Zain was attending Cannes for the leading role he played in the movie  “Capharnaum”, which won the Grand Jury Prize. He attended the Oscars too, for which Capharnaum, shown in Hong Kong during March, was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film.

Only seven when he fled Daraa in Syria for Lebanon with his family, Zain drew on his refugee experience to play Capharnaum’s undocumented boy living in one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Beirut, Lebanon. But Zain’s own story is taking a turn; with the support of UNHCR, he is soon leaving Lebanon for resettlement to Norway. “There, I will be able to go to school and learn how to read and write,” he brims.



The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established on 14 December 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee issues. It strives to ensure that everyone has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to voluntarily return home when conditions are conducive for return, integrate locally or resettle to a third country. UNHCR has twice won the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1954 for its ground-breaking work in helping the refugees of Europe, and in 1981 for its worldwide assistance to refugees.