Terror and Hope wins the Best Documentary award at the 2020 Sci-On Film Festival


To honor World Refugee Day, Terror and Hope will be available for screening without charge for one week - June 14 - 20.  On June 18, there will be a live conversation and Q&A with producer/director Ron Bourke joined by a representative from Mercy Corps and Catherine Panter-Brick, PhD, Yale Professor of Anthropology featured in the film. 

Film Trailer

A Documentary Film by Ron Bourke

Terror and Hope: The Science of Resilience is a story about children and war. It’s about stress so severe and prolonged it can become toxic.  It’s about scientists and humanitarians working to provide hope in what can seem like a pretty hopeless world.  And it’s the story of courageous Syrian families raising their children in the face of violence and oppression - their past defined by terror, their future driven by hope.

"In this amazing exploration into the experience of displaced Syrians we discover the truth about resilience, that it demands a collective effort if people are to recover and grow. As we come to see, to be compassionate is to help another build resilience.”


Michael Ungar, Ph.D. 

Director, Resilience Research Centre, Dalhousie University 

Author of Change Your World: The Science of Resilience and the True Path to Success

Science powered by compassion.

It’s called toxic stress for a reason. It’s stress to a child or adolescent that’s so severe, prolonged, or frequent that it can damage the developing brain - affecting mental and physical health, functionality, and behavior over the young boy or girl’s lifespan. Studies have shown that the brains of children exposed to extreme stress can experience profound changes, disrupting healthy development. Decision making capability is compromised. Control over impulses can be lost. 


In Syria alone, it’s estimated that more than 8 million children are suffering from the unrelenting and brutal war. Adolescence represents a brief window of opportunity for young people to develop the skills needed to make positive decisions before behavioral norms are established. For an entire generation of young people coming of age in the midst of conflict and the largest global displacement crisis since the second world war, the compounding effects of spending development years under toxic stress has potentially catastrophic ripple effects on the stability of communities, countries and the globe.


Researchers from Yale and Hashemite Universities are working to understand the impact of profound and persistent stress on generations within Syrian families.  Concurrently, Mercy Corps is developing programs to support the psychosocial health of displaced, refugee children and adolescents while cultivating their ability to become more self-sufficient - building a social and emotional connection with others through the senses, language, sports, nature and art.


To date, the vast majority of stories covering the refugee crisis in Africa and the Middle East have emphasized the politics and human tragedy involved. To make a positive impact on the lives of these vast populations displaced and scarred by war, it’s critical that more is provided than just food and shelter. Current neurological and behavioral science offers insights that could have a lasting effect on how we help these children of war to break the cycle of violence.  For peace to be even remotely possible, we will need a generation of young people with the capacity to positively adapt to adversity.

Our story is told through the lives of those immediately involved:  Young Syrian and Jordanian researchers and volunteers working on the humanitarian front lines in northern Jordan, gathering scientific data or mentoring refugee teens in Mercy Corps programs. They are smart, committed and driven to help their local communities.  Without them, the research and humanitarian work would be difficult if not impossible.  Yes we will hear from the academics and professional humanitarians who can provide credibility and context, but the human story belongs on the ground and not in the ivory towers or boardrooms of an NGO.  If there’s hope for the future of these young refugees – and the greater stability of a region and perhaps the globe – it will be due in large part to the dedicated aid workers and researchers putting science to work for these vulnerable boys and girls.  Terror and Hope tells their story.


"Perhaps one of the most powerful moments this semester was while watching the “Terror and Hope” video. In this video, a particular quote stuck out to me: 'Your biggest strength as a human is your compassion. If we don’t have compassion for ourselves, and we don’t have compassion for others, we are lost' This revelation led me to think about the video long after I had stopped watching. Once compassion is established, experiences are enriched and, through true understanding and collaboration, results become more feasible."    - Rachel Kleiman, Student, University of Richmond
Photo © Ron Bourke 2017


Terror and Hope, The Science of Resilience will be released to educators and libraries by Collective Eye Films on United Nations World Refugee Day, June 20, 2020.  For more information contact Collective Eye Films:   https://www.collectiveeye.org

TERROR & HOPE is funded in part by the Regional Arts & Culture Council

Website and photos © 2017-2020 Ron Bourke Films LLC. Videos copyright by their respective owners.