Cruel Journeys: Shorts on Migration
“Where can I go to have a decent life?”
On Friday 11 June, Shorts at the Frontline Club took viewers on a cinematic journey that showcased the different ways used to document the world we live in.
The theme: migration and the phases of migration.
Two at the Border by Tuna Kaptan and Felicitas Sonvilla shone a light onto the lives Ali and Nasser. The two friends attempt to make ends meet by helping refugees to the Turkish-Greek border. Ali is Palestinian, traumatised by the violence he has witnessed. “Problems, problems everywhere,” he repeats with bloodshot eyes.
“Where can I go to have a decent live?” Ali asks the universe.
As if replying to Ali, Europe’s response to the rising number of refugees has been increased militarisation of the Greece–Turkey border. The film is dedicated to Naser, who attempted to smuggle himself into Greece. The boat he was on allegedly capsized in the Aegean Sea, and he has been missing ever since.
What can await those who make it across the border to Greece? Xenos documents the desperation of Abu Eyad, whose departure from the Palestenian refugee camp Ain el-Helweh in Lebanon was the subject of Mahdi Fleifel’s award-winning documentary A World Not Ours (2012). Xenos is narrated through a telephone conversation between the two childhood friends. Slowly the reality of life across the border becomes apparent to Mahdi as a bitter nightmare of depression, heroin addiction, sex with men for money and the impossibility of seeing their families again.
The Source by Marcin Sauter spirited the audience to Nagorno-Karabakh, illustrating what it’s like to stay where everyone else has left. The black and white film projected a stylised impression of trauma and loneliness felt by a woman who stayed where no one else could. In a village destroyed and deserted by war.
Separation and acute loneliness continued in the film Adrift by Frederik Jan Depickere. We listened to Simu’s story against the stark, industrial visuals of the Arctic. Simu dreamt of becoming a pop singer. In life, his father was tortured to death for founding the anti-government UPF. His older brother suffered the same fate. Simu’s mother disappeared. His sister died of HIV as they were being smuggled from Uganda. He cannot return. As he shovels the snow, he thinks his dream is dead.
The final film of the evening broke slightly from the theme of migration and touched more upon identity. What happens when one plays for a national team and the political context of what you represent changes? The Opposition by Ezra Edelman and Jeffrey Plunkett chronicles the events around the qualification play-off games for the 1974 World Cup between Chile and the USSR. Chilean football players were faced with a choice between staying part of the US-backed dictator Augusto Pinochet’s charade, or using one’s privileged position to represent the oppressed.
Whether directly linked to migration or not, all the films explored the human struggle to live. To live a decent life in dignity.