What is the 'Island of Refuge' project

"Island of Refuge" (#islandofrefuge) is an independent feature length documentary about the refugee crisis on Lesvos, in Greece. The film has a particular focus on the local people and how they have experienced and are responding to the crisis. I am also taking portrait photographs of the local people on Lesvos and these are available in limited addition in the rewards section. There will be a variety of exhibition opportunities for the film and ultimately my aim is to have "Island of Refuge" seen by as many people as possible as well as being a document summary of this island's iconic moment in history.


My aim is that “Island of Refuge” will give people a new window into a well documented crisis, focusing on small stories to show the bigger picture and in that way I believe we can raise awareness about the larger migrant issue. I would like as many people to see the film as possible and we are developing a strategy to maximize the impact that it can have.

There was a really amazing response to the trailer and last campaign – and I massively appreciate all your kind words about the film and offers to help. Please donate to the film fund if you can or show others the trailer and ask if they can help. There are a variety of rewards available again. Filmmaking always costs a lot of money but we are only looking for our expenses to be covered at this stage. There are other ways in which you can help as well. For example if you have ideas about promotion, marketing and exhibition once the film is complete then please get in touch via the Facebook page. Would love to hear from you!

We also need to shoot aerial drone footage of the island in 4K. If you have any contacts or are a drone team interested in our film please get in touch.


My background

I am a filmmaker from Bristol and after shooting and researching the Lesvos refugee subject for the first time in November 2015, I have returned to Lesvos for the third time to carry on recording people’s stories and finish the film’s post production.

Lesvos just felt like the right place to complete the film for me. In the same way everyone I meet has been inexplicably drawn here I have also been mysteriously called by the island. This campaign is to fund the final expenses of production – like travel and accommodation. We also really want to capture drone footage of the stunning island so we will need to either hire a local team or invite one onto the island.

“Island of Refuge” is an independent film telling the story of the people of Lesvos and anyone who has decided to call it ‘home’ – a beautiful island set against the backdrop of the refugee crisis. The people here have experienced truly horrific scenes, financial hardship, inspiring encounters and have also done heroic deeds too.

  • A symbol of solidarity on Lesvos island, an amazing documentary film…

    YunanistanKomşudan Haberler
  • Great job! Good luck and strength for the rest!

    Johnny de MolActor/Presentor/Humanitarian
  • This made me cry. To hear the voice of the man from Starfish Foundation greeting the refugees with his amazing speech. I thought of Nurul and the awesome times Gabi and I spent with her. To see Dimitri. The olive factory in Skala. I miss Skala and our Greek friends we left behind. Im so glad Gabi is going back.

    Kety Shapazian
  • I’ll never forget of the day you showed me a video of that guy talking to the refugees before they went to Moria. We were in the car and I couldn’t stop crying. Now, I listened to what he said one more time, and it was just special

    Gabriela Shapazian
  • I’m really looking forward to this film and pleased to be a very small part of the excitement. A big subject treated on a human level.

    Helen Ramage
  • A very special film in the making! Watch the trailer and you’ll see why we want the the world to see Island of Refuge. Now more than ever it is up to the storytellers of the world to make sure this wave of human suffering and human kindness is never forgotten.

    Laura JansenSinger/Songwriter/Humanitarian
  • Ein weiterer extended Trailer von einem wundervollen Filmemacher den ich kennenlernen durfte über die Refugee Crisis auf Lesvos! Hier stehen die gütigen Bewohner der Insel im Vordergrund! Danke, dass ich viele von Ihnen selbst in mein Herz schließen und Erfahrungen mit Ihnen teilen durfte!

    Liza LöwenschwesterVolunteer
  • The amazing trailer of my friend Oliver Zimmermann’s documentary about the refugees in Lesbos. I had tears in my eyes while watching. So looking forward to see the whole piece. I’m so proud to have a friend like him.

    Selin Soyak
  • Zimmermann’s way with people has allowed him to integrate into the small local population.  In conducting his interviews, he is now in the privileged position to count them as friends.  This total immersion into island life is taking the documentary to another level because he achieves a level of openness and honesty that an outsider simply wouldn’t be privy to.

    Set In Paris

Crew & Collaborators



My good friend and talented documentary cinematographer who came with us to Lesvos for the whole month of January.

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Jacob is another great friend and amazing filmmaker. He came to Lesvos for almost two months from the end of March and edited the eight minute..

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Catarina will be coming out to Lesvos after June to edit the final feature. Catarina also edited the original teaser trailer that had an amazing response..

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Human stories

The film is about human stories and interesting characters, it is not aiming to offer a political answer or message beyond documenting what is happening there right now and how people are living their lives on Lesvos. But it will offer insight into how ‘ordinary’ people can behave in extraordinary times. What also certainly has struck me from a visual point of view is the juxtaposition of beauty of the landscape and the surreal footprint of life jackets, sunken boats and discarded clothes. But life does carry on so it’s also about showing just that in terms of documenting a portrait of the island. Things have changed and are constantly changing in terms of the cirsis, the refugees and the island itself – I hope this film will look at the legacy of Lesvos and how it has been central and fundamental in affecting change in people’s lives.

Characters in 'Island of Refuge'

I have met so many amazing people from all over the world on Lesvos. Here are a few of the characters featured in the film and these are also some of the portraits that are available in the rewards section.