Surviving Translation


Surviving Translation © University of Edinburgh, 2023
Based on original research by Charlotte Bosseaux (co-creator, co-producer)
Director: Ling Lee (editor and co-producer)
Funded by an AHRC Research, Development and Engagement Fellowship (Grant number: AH/W000199/1)

Surviving Translation takes an in-depth look at the ethics of translation – focusing specifically on the traumatic experiences of female migrants.  Starting with Charlotte Bosseaux’s research, Film Director, Cinematographer and Editor, Ling Lee then captured intimate conversations with migrants and language professionals – weaving these together with poetic and evocative imagery to create an informative and moving study of this unexamined subject. 

We filmed between April and September 2022. Each interview gave us more insight into the importance of translation and interpreting when conveying the voices of women who have faced traumatic situations. The women who are sharing their stories are extremely brave and we’re very grateful for their willingness to talk to us. We’ve also interviewed interpreters and translators about their work in the context of GBV. 


Rejeen Musa was working as a subtitler on ‘Surviving Translation’ when the words she was translating began to unlock painful memories from her own past. As a female Kurdish migrant and a translator, Rejeen became the lens through which the film explores the trauma and life-altering consequences of mistranslation. In addition to Rejeen, the film captures testimonies from women who fled their homelands in the hope of building a new life in the UK. They speak candidly of the dangers and gender-based violence they suffered in their past and the arduous journeys they undertook to escape. They explain that – even after arriving in the UK – they need to communicate via an interpreter to secure medical care and apply for asylum; a process which causes them to relive past traumas and recurring unequal power dynamics. With their futures held in the balance – they must speak via a complete stranger who may or may not have their best interest at heart. To further illuminate this largely unexamined subject, the film also presents testimonies from interpreters, subtitlers and translators who describe the – sometimes harrowing – challenges that they themselves face. Raw testimony, poetic imagery, and academic research coalesce in this unique meditation on translation, isolation, and the meaning of ‘home’.