Leicester screens Film about 7-year-old who saved the lives of 15 people

Oksijan is being screened as part of the 5th annual Leicester Human Rights Arts and Film Festival

The University of Leicester will host the Leicester screening of Oksijan, a short film by writer and director Edward Watts which tells the story of how, in April 2016, a seven-year-old boy saved the lives of 15 people who were trapped in the back of a lorry in Leicester Forest East and were at risk of suffocating.

The film screening will be held in the Ken Edwards Building (Lecture Theatre 3) at the University of Leicester on Wednesday 5 December 2018, starting at 6.30pm and will be followed by a panel discussion and Q&A session with:

  • film producers, Caroline Lawrence and Beatrice Warren,
  • one of the people on whose experiences the film is based,
  • one or more people from the MEENA Centre in Birmingham which grew from The 'Unofficial' Women and Children's Centre in Calais and has been supporting the young people whose experiences inspired the film, and
  • University of Leicester lecturer in Media and Communication, Dr Maria Rovisco.

Dr Rovisco, who organises the film component of the Leicester Human Rights Arts and Film Festival, says, "Oksijan portrays in a poignant way the dignity, subjectivity and humanity of the refugee experience. I hope that people attending the film screening and panel discussion connect to this message, and recognise the power of film in raising awareness of personal stories of asylum that rarely feature in the mainstream news media."

Despite not having received any formal English language education, Ahmad managed to send a text message in English to a contact who, at the time, was in New York, which set in motion a series of events that led to the 15 people being found alive and rescued.

MEENA Centre founder and director, Liz Clegg said, "Reading the message 'no oksijan' and knowing this was from a seven-year-old boy we had grown to care about ... there had been other deaths ... live suffocations ... indescribable .... and, a part of me looking at my precious daughter and wondering how she will survive this if it ends badly. It was the slowest experience of time.

"Ahmad is one of thousands of children risking their lives to escape conflict and persecution. This film shows the desperate attempts to seek sanctuary. I hope with all my heart this film encourages people to take action and respond to the humanitarian crisis we are facing across Europe."

Ahmad was subsequently shortlisted for the Bravery and Courage Award, a category in the 2016 Leicester Mercury Heroes of Leicestershire Awards sponsored by Leicestershire Police.

Hosted by the Unit for Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement (DICE) and the Leicester Migration Network at the University of Leicester, the film screening is free and open to all and will be chaired by Dafni Mangalousi, a PhD candidate in the School of Media, Communication and Sociology at the university.

People can register to attend through

The Leicester Human Rights Arts and Film Festival runs from 4 December through to 10 December every year. It aims to explore human rights issues through a series of events that are free and open to all and which include panel events, film, music and art. The Festival aims to give people a platform through which to engage with human rights issues at home and abroad. The Festival also aims to draw attention to International Human Rights Day which is celebrated annually, around the world, on December 10.