Unknown Ravens 

 September 24, 2018


Unknown Ravens: a documentary

With exclusive access to previously unpublished prisoner of war images, this oral history documentary brings a unique and challenging perspective on one of the most tragic events in human history.

The film

The story of peacemakers often goes untold, while the focus on war, conflict and politics takes the limelight. Unknown Ravens is the story of faith and pacifism through the lens of one family in rural Oxfordshire, who refused to consider any person their enemy. 

Behind the scenes of Unknown Ravens

Directed by Sema Basharan for her MA final thesis project, this film was produced through the School of Film and Television at Falmouth University and started touring a variety of film festivals in 2019. 

This film follows the success of her first documentary production through Falmouth, which was successfully selected to several festivals in 2018 and won Best Student Film at the British Documentary Film Festival. Unknown Ravens sound design was completed by Claire from Porth Sound.

The synopsis

Willie Heider, a 17-year-old German machine gunner, is drafted into the army in 1942. During his two years as a soldier, he never shoots a man. His rejection of armed conflict leads him on a life changing journey.

Meanwhile, a family in Oxfordshire host numerous prisoners of war on their farm. Like many from the Brethren Christian community, they are conscientious objectors. Their stand for peace and commitment to love their enemies causes them to be shunned by society in a time of patriotism and war-fever.

When Willie Heider arrives at the English family farm as a POW, he is welcomed with open arms, and experiences love in the home of his foes. Meanwhile, as Britain recovers after the war, the devastation and poverty in Germany is far more severe. The family are moved to send aid out of their own rations, sparking a glimmer of hope.

Screenings and awards

26 August – 2 September 2019: Art Quake Kyoto, Japan. Creative biennale for the inspiration of peace.

29 November 2019: Cyprus International Film Festival, Nicosia. ‘Green Line Peace’ films. *WINNER : Best Short Documentary.

8-14 May 2020: Oxford International Short Film Festival, Oxford. *FIRST RUNNER UP: ScreenTalk Prize for Best Oxfordshire Film 2020.

28 May 2020: Carmarthen Bay Film Festival, Llanelli.

19 June 2020: Bradford Refugee Week, online screening with Q&A.

Unknown Ravens Director

"With a professional background in NGO film and communications, my filmmaking has always been driven by stories of personal testimony and social justice. The power of film to move hearts and give voice to hidden stories, both past and present, has inspired my recent practice within oral history documentary – unearthing and preserving local stories before they are forgotten.

Alongside my film practice, I work freelance as a filmmaker and editor, currently based in West Yorkshire. I hold an MA in Film & Television from Falmouth University, and a BA in Fine Art. When I’m not making films, I can often be found riding my bike around the beautiful Yorkshire countryside."

-Sema Basharan

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