Radio Dadaab

Filmmaker Q&A with Director Ellie King

Is there a particular documentary film or filmmaker that had a major influence on your career?

The Act of Killing & The Look of Silence

What motivated you to make your impact video?

In my role as a Video Producer at the Environmental Justice Foundation, I joined a campaigner on a research trip to Dadaab Refugee Camp. Our goal was to create a film to accompany our report on the link between global heating and forced displacement on the frontlines of the climate crisis. There is currently no legal framework for climate-induced displacement and, as an NGO, we push for effective, durable and just solutions for those impacted first and worst by the climate crisis.

With a flexible timeline, we had the chance to to be creative in pre-production. I found an article about Radio Gargaar, the camp’s only radio station run by refugees. It provides essential information and support to over 300,000 residents. We reached out to the station manager and were introduced to Fardowsa, a remarkable 25-year-old who works as one of the few female journalists at Radio Gargaar.

Fardowsa was born and raised in Dadaab, her parents seeking refuge in the camp during the early nineties to escape the civil war in Somalia. Deprived of citizenship, passport, and basic rights, Fardowsa blew us away with her passion for journalism and drive for telling stories. We decided to commission her to create a radio show exploring how the push factors for refugees arriving to Dadaab has shifted from conflict to climate, unraveling the ways in which the climate crisis exacerbates displacement across the Horn of Africa, and filming the process.

Having Fardowsa lead the interviews with refugees within the camp gave us a deeper understanding of the situation but also aligned with our goal of giving a voice to those being hit first and worst by the climate crisis. This collaboration allowed those on the frontlines to articulate their own narratives, offering a unique perspective on the intersection of global heating and forced displacement.

Please tell us what camera(s) you shot with primarily – and any other special equipment that you used and why you used it: 

Canon C70 (sometimes x2 for when Fardowsa was interviewing), Canon R5 on a DJI Ronin Gimbal RS3 (for walking shots), Mavic 3 Cine Pro drone

Please tell us about any special styles or techniques that you used during the production of your film to help tell your story. 

We tried to make the film as beautiful as possible, aiming to captivate viewers and engage them in an otherwise difficult and challenging subject matter. We also used an Interrotron for Fardowsa’s reflective interview to camera, to help the viewer feel even more connected to her as the gateway into the story.

How did your story evolve from day one, to the very last day in post? Is your story what you thought it would be? 

The film’s framing of following Fardowsa researching, scripting and broadcasting her radio show stayed consistent from story-boarding to post-production. However, the actual content of the radio show and the many layers of how the climate crisis is not only affecting those escaping the drought in Somalia but also leaving a lasting impact on those already residing in the camp, was a revelation and changed the direction of the edit.

While the visit to the school within the camp was initially planned in the storyboard, the resilience and intelligence of the students, along with their powerful words directed at world leaders who hold the key to mitigating the global heating crisis, was truly inspiring. It lead to restructuring the film so the radio show could conclude on a note of hope for the future. Rather than conveying a sense of defeatism, the film aimed to empower the audience, suggesting that there are actionable steps that can be taken to address and alleviate the challenges presented by the climate crisis.

Please describe the most rewarding experience you had while making this impact video: 

Despite a few power cuts at the start, filming Fardowsa passionately broadcast her finished radio show to the residents of the camp at the end of the shoot was an inspiring moment to witness. Later that day, Radio Gargaar rebroadcasted the show, giving us the opportunity to film people’s reactions whilst listening. Seeing some interviewees react to their own voice being broadcast through the radio and knowing their voice was being heard was also incredibly moving.

What advice can you give to other impact filmmakers?

Collaboration with those experiencing the issue you are trying to portray is essential. It not only enhances your own comprehension to help you make a better film, but it also resonates more profoundly with your audience.

What’s your favorite part about the filmmaking process and why?

My favourite part of the filmmaking process is the actual filming. Being allowed to immerse yourself in a completely new place and meet people you might never have the chance to meet under normal circumstances feels like a real privilege. 

What’s the one item you always take with you when working out in the field and why?

A lucky coin to tighten any loose tripod plates!

Please provide a brief description of the work or organization featured in your video:

The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) is a UK-based NGO that works to protect the natural world and defend our basic human right to a secure environment.

What have you learned about the value and impact of the project?

From 2013 to 2022, an average of 23.3 million people each year were displaced within their country due to extreme weather events globally, with a record 32.6 million internal displacements in 2022.

Meeting those impacted directly by the worst of the climate crisis has made it even more apparent that we need a comprehensive legal framework to safeguard climate refugees. But we also need to ramp up mitigation efforts to address global heating, ensuring that more people are not forced into a situation where abandoning their homes becomes the only viable option.

Please share a personal story about your experience making this impact video:

The lady singing at the beginning and end of the film is another refugee journalist and poet who works at Radio Gargaar called Ikram. At the beginning of the shoot, we asked her if she could write a poem related to the climate crisis for Fardowsa to use during her radio show. When the time came to record the poem near the end of the shoot, it was a complete surprise that Ikram not only sang the words she had written, but that she had the most beautiful voice!

What do you want audiences to take away from this video?

From watching ‘Radio Dadaab’, I would like people to witness the resilience of the human spirit and realise how people that have contributed least to the climate crisis are the ones being impact the most. I would like people to support a new legal framework for the protection of climate refugees, as well as believe we all have a common shared interest to act with far greater urgency and ambition now to avert the worst impacts of climate breakdown.

Please list key points that should be covered in a post-screening discussion: 

– How those who have contributed the least to global heating are being impacted first and worst

– How there is a link between global heating and forced displacement

– How there is no legal framework for the protection of climate refugees

Please provide information on any recent developments regarding the issue or subjects of the video. How have things changed or not changed?

The rain finally arrived in 2023 marking the end to three years of drought in the Horn of Africa. But torrential rainfall and flash floods brought measles and cholera outbreaks and impeded the delivery of much-needed relief, causing a sharp rise in malnutrition.

At least 2.4 million have been impacted in Somalia alone, with 1.1 million displaced from their homes. Food insecurity is far from over as people are now hammered by torrential rains and floods and people in the region are still being impacted by the extreme weather brought on by the climate crisis.

What opportunities are available for those interested in getting further involved?

We can use our voice, vote and wallet to help mitigate global heating. But what is needed now, above all, is political will and with it, ambitious leadership.

Please provide any additional resources (websites, links to additional videos, forms, articles, etc.) relevant to the context of the issue discussed in your video:



© SIMA Academy