New Data Reveal: Films Fight Xenophobia, Movies Counter Misinformation about Migrants

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Geneva – New evidence from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) indicates films can foster empathy for migrants, create better understanding of their plight and bring diverse communities together. Coming amidst a blizzard of misinformation about migration triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, an early evaluation of IOM’s Global Migration Film Festival (GMFF) points to some promising results.

IOM has been at the forefront of combatting xenophobia and promoting balanced narratives on migration with its decades-long advocacy and global operational footprint. Yet, with the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, migrants have become more exposed to risk of stigmatization and scapegoating. As such, there is an urgent need to explore new ways to counter this backlash, while at the same time developing new channels to promote more positive narratives.

Within the framework of the IOM’s Joint Global Initiative on Diversity, Inclusion and Social Cohesion (DISC), and in collaboration with the Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC), a pilot study is being conducted to evaluate how films and public film screenings influence public perceptions towards migrants and the public’s understanding of migration. Based on the data from over 4,000 respondents in over 40 countries, the study finds that participation in an event during IOM’s Global Migration Film Festival positively influences perception of migrants.

While the mostly young, highly educated, and urban audience were already supportive towards migrants prior to the event, the positive views about migration increased even more – by some 11 per cent, according to surveys conducted with audiences – after watching the films. The data reveal certain tendencies – for example, that positive changes appear to be more pronounced for women, non-migrants and those that do not know migrants personally – when migrants’ stories are dramatized on film.

A similar effect was noticeable on attitudes towards diversity. Regarding general attitudes, 58 per cent of participants surveyed, both men and women, reported that immigrants enrich society; 50 per cent said that migrants can be trusted. Survey results further suggest that migrant respondents and those who personally know migrants are more likely to agree with the statement that migrants enrich the country’s cultural life.

With the overwhelmingly positive feedback towards the GMFF, the pilot study suggests that the GMFF is a powerful advocacy tool to bring attention to social issues, counter misinformation, and create a platform for meaningful interaction. In short, this pilot study indicates that films have the immense potential to influence perceptions of and attitudes towards migrants, and as such, they could be fit for the purpose of combatting COVID-19 related hate speech and xenophobia.

IOM recognizes that cultural tools such as films are critical to inform, entertain and provoke healthy debates and discourses on various social issues, such as migration. One pioneering example is IOM’s Global Migration Film Festival, which has, for the past four years, served as a hub to showcase films and documentaries that capture the promises and challenges of migration, and migrants’ unique contributions to their host communities.

For more on the GMFF see

For more information, please contact Leonard Doyle, IOM Geneva, Tel: +41 79 285 7123, Email: