Alicia Keys brings the refugee crisis to southern California with new short film

Posted June 30

Grammy-award-winning singer-songwriter and natural beauty advocate Alicia Keys released a video early this week imagining a world in which Americans seek refuge in Mexico.

The 11-minute short film, called “Let Me In,” depicts southern California under attack. Bodies lay on the street and gunfire sounds throughout Keys’ sunny, suburban neighborhood. She and her family — all actors, there was no Swizz Beatz cameo — flee California and head south to Mexico, where the radio news anchor reports on “thousands of U.S. citizens … seeking refuge from the violence” and Mexican citizens protesting because they “are afraid of the firearms the American refugees may bring.”

It’s all familiar imagery and dialogue: families crossing a desert, police lining up along the border with firearms at the ready. But in their film Keys and producer Jonathan Olinger flip the script. This time, it’s American families fighting for their lives, and they’re fleeing to a country that they’ve previously tried to wall off.

Other musicians have spoken up about the crisis as well, and some are also using their craft to raise awareness and sympathy.

M.I.A, a former refugee, released a music video for her song “Borders” this past December, and told Time magazine she thought the video was appropriate because "society was gearing up to become more closed off than it has been."

The Wheel,” which came out February, is singer PJ Harvey’s response to the number of children being forced out of Afghanistan and Kosovo. In an interview with Noisey, she said she wanted to travel to Kosovo for the video because "gathering information from secondary sources felt too far removed for what I was trying to write about. I wanted to smell the air, feel the soil and meet the people of the countries I was fascinated with."

Woodkid and Nils Frahm composed an entire album, called “Ellis,” dedicated to the refugee crisis. It is set to be released July 8, along with a short film directed by JR and starring Robert DeNiro.

Keys uses her new song “Hallelujah” as a soundtrack to the last half of the film, which came out shortly after the United Nations announced that 65.3 million people were displaced in 2015. The annual study also found that half of all refugees are children.

Email:; Twitter: @sarapweber


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