TERROR AND HOPE, The Science of Resilience

Is there a role for compassion in the practice of science? Terror and Hope: The Science of Resilience follows scientists and humanitarians as they combine cutting-edge research and informed care to heal Syrian refugee children traumatized by the devastating stress of war. Science fueled by compassion. A future driven by hope.


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 unimaginable violence and oppression. Their past defined by terror, their future driven by hope.

Current neurological and behavioral science offers insights that could have a lasting impact 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 by those immediately involved: Neurological and behavioral teams from Harvard, Yale and Hashemite University; Humanitarian program developers and coordinators in the U.S. and Jordan; and most of all, the young researchers and humanitarian volunteers. If there’s hope for the future of refugee children and youth, it’s due in large part to the teams of aid workers and researchers putting science to work for the oppressed and vulnerable. Terror and Hope tells their story.

  • Ron Bourke
    Lessons of Basketball and War
  • Ron Bourke
    Lessons of Basketball and War
  • Ron Bourke
  • Christopher James Thomas
  • Ghassan Nazmi
  • Nour Halawani
    Location Sound
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Genres:
    Science, refugees, stress, war
  • Runtime:
    37 minutes 30 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    March 1, 2020
  • Production Budget:
    30,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    Jordan, United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Sci-On Film Festival
    United States
    May 5, 2020
    Winner, Best Documentary
  • USA Film Film Festival
    United States
    Finalist, Best Short Documentary
  • Raw Science Film Festival
    Los Angeles
    United States
    Jury Award: Best Documentary Short
  • AFMX Film Festival
    United States
    September 26, 2020
    Winner: Best Documentary Short
  • Global Peace Film Festival
    Winter Park
    United States
    September 25, 2020
    Official Selection
  • AFIN Film Festival
    November 14, 2020
    Best Short Documentary Nominee
  • Canberra Mental Health Film Festival
    Official Selection
  • CHAIN New York City
    New York
    United States
    Official selection
  • Ontario International Film Festival
    Official Selection
  • Red Rock Film Festival
    Cedar City, Utah
    United States
    Official Selection
  • The Hague Global Cinema Festival
    The Hague
    Official Selection
  • Socially Relevant Film Festival New York
    New York City
    United States
    March 20, 2021
Distribution Information
  • Collective Eye Films (educational distribution)
    Country: United States
Director Biography - Ron Bourke

Writer/Director/Producer, Ron Bourke Films. Independent documentary filmmaker. Ron's previous doc, “Lessons of Basketball and War” has been an official selection in more than a dozen international film festivals and is currently available on Amazon Prime in the US and UK as well as on Kanopy for streaming by over 3000 Universities and Public Libraries globally. Ron's newest film, "Terror and Hope, The Science of Resilience," documents the efforts of an international team of researchers to better understand the impact of stress on the lives of displaced refugees from war-torn Syria.

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Director Statement

On the way back from my second trip to Jordan working on my documentary film, TERROR AND HOPE, The Science of Resilience, I stopped at Harvard University to film an interview with Child Trauma Specialist and PhD Candidate, Alexandra Chen. After an extensive discussion of toxic stress and the impact of war on Syrian refugees, I told her we were done and asked if she might have anything else she’d like to add. After a brief pause, she enthusiastically added the following;

“I think these refugees are very brave, I don’t think anyone really understands that. There is the lens always toward either a victim or the fear they may become terrorists. It takes little effort to understand just how brave and honestly loving they are and I’m always astounded by that. I’m not sure I would have made it you know, and I always tell them that the fact that you made it, the fact that you fled through barrel bombs, sniper fire, losing family, losing your house, never knowing what’s going to come next, that by definition makes you the survivor. And they are survivors, not just for themselves, but for one another, for strangers they meet along the way, for friends they make in the refugee camp, and they take care of one another, and I think that makes them superhuman. I think we need to remember that. “

Alexandra has spent her career studying and counseling children who’ve experienced extreme trauma in war zones around the world. Prior to meeting her, I wondered how someone could do this kind of work and not become deeply depressed and cynical. This comment alone provides an inspiring answer. I have immense appreciation and respect for the bravery and resilience of these refugees and the dedicated humanitarians who work tirelessly to help them live a better life. They are all truly superhuman.