Review: Moving documentary ‘This Is Home: A Refugee Story’ captures plight of Syrians in Baltimore

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The small industry of documentaries about Syria shouldn’t deter you from the affecting pull of “This Is Home: A Refugee Story,” Alexandra Shiva’s heartwarming if conventional portrait of four refugee Syrian families navigating new lives in Baltimore. Taking place over an eight-month span in which the International Rescue Committee can provide self-sufficiency skills, the movie addresses early relief, initial confusion, fluctuating states of peace and homesick despair, and the small joys that come with knowing one can adapt.

Among the strong-willed transplants we meet: teenager Mohammed, suffering from nightmares but working hard at blending in at his new school; survivor of torture and dedicated husband and dad Khaldoun, who learns to loosen the prideful notion that his wife shouldn’t work; and a trio of smart, ambitious, college-age-and-older sisters who find it almost comically hard to live with their mother again, but who worry that if her bid for asylum fails, she’ll be deported.

Shiva’s gentle approach to vérité, which include snippets of the IRC workers’ boundless energy, engenders a compassionate argument for the necessity of taking in the world’s discarded, abandoned and fleeing — people who just want a place to live like normal human beings.


Ever mindful of America’s worsening attitude toward refugees (President Trump’s travel ban arrives during filming like a lightning bolt of intolerance), one IRC employee warily notes, “We want to be the greatest country in the world, but we don’t treat people like we’re the greatest country in the world.”


‘This Is Home: A Refugee Story’

In English and Arabic, with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills

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