Refugee cinema and homeland drama

The shape of the tent set up in Maximilian Park was amazing for passers-by next to the place in the center of the Belgian capital, Brussels in 2015. Shapes and colors of people of different ages enter and exit, and threads of light flow from between the folds of the tent, revealing something unusual that happens in a public place on the side of the road, an order Many refugees there describe it as their first feeling of home in Belgium.

The place was nothing more than a screen and a set of chairs on which a number of refugees and new arrivals in Belgium would sit in what would later be known as “Maximilian Cinema”, an initiative of the duo of documentary filmmaker Gwendolyn Lutyens and film historian Guan van Garde, who were destined to leave the tent and continue until Now for more than 7 years, it is expanding and spreading all over Belgium to reach cinemas and the homes of expatriates.

The initiative includes musical performances, discussion sessions, lectures and workshops, and it is also an expression of the phenomenon of interest in refugee issues and viewing them in cinemas, which has invaded film productions and local and international festivals in recent years.

This initiative and others are one of the manifestations of the refugee relationship with cinema, which has gone beyond the limits of embodying suffering on the silver screen to jump into the arms of the screen in search of a homeland in a cinema hall, no matter how simple the possibilities may seem.

It is equal to being a refugee in a European capital such as Brussels, or being a refugee in the Dadaab camp in Kenya, one of the oldest, largest and most dangerous refugee camps in the world. Dadaab camp when they set up their own cinema there to escape from the torments of deprivation.

Refugees need cinema for different goals, some of which are educational, some are psychological, and another is social, after the importance of cinema for the refugee has transcended the idea of ​​entertainment to the stage of need and necessity.

The refugee’s relationship with the silver screen is different from his relationship with television, as the latter is not always available, and if it is available, it restricts viewing in a narrow home space. As for the large screen and collective watching with others, they are a collective cultural act that summarizes the essence of the difference between the small and large screens, especially if it is added to this viewing. Cinematic collective discussion and dialogue in the aftermath of the film.

Here we are not talking about the contents of the films shown as much as we are talking about the mechanism of watching as a collective cultural act and its importance for the refugee and even the expatriate who lacks the mechanism of effective social communication outside the traditional circles of work, study, eating and drinking, a need that most countries meet and people do not realize its importance until after the experience of asylum or Alienation.

The momentum of film production on refugees – especially Syrians – in the field of feature films is no less than documentaries. The film “Limbo” won the BAFTA Award in Scotland for the best feature film this year, and the film’s hero, the British actor of Egyptian origin, Amir Al-Masry, won the Best Prize. actor

Film production on refugees

The importance of cinema for a refugee as a viewer is inseparable from its importance as a director and the importance of this artistic medium for his cause and suffering. For example, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees raised the slogan “Cinema for Humanity,” and recently participated in a film production in order for people to see the tragedies of refugees in a new way. And it funded the documentary film “Captains of Zaatari” by Egyptian director Ali El-Araby, who spent 8 years filming the Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan. It was produced in 2021 and screened at the Sundance International Film Festival in the United States, and was chosen as the second best film in the festival.

The film tells the story of two young men who escaped from the inferno of war in Daraa, Syria, to the Zaatari camp, and dreamed of being soccer heroes.

Gentlemen present, create opportunity for all refugees around the world. All a refugee needs is opportunity, not pity.

From the movie “Captains of Zaatari” 2021

The film “Captains of Zaatari” belongs to the category of aesthetic documentaries, such as the film “For Sama” by Syrian director Waad al-Khatib, which reached Oscar nominations last year 2020, and deals with a summary of 5 years of filming to document the horrors of the siege and bombing of the Syrian city of Aleppo.

But the difference between the two films is that the first film is made by the outside hands of a non-refugee director, so the viewer navigates through it amid poetic and aesthetic shots that go into the depths of the youth’s psyche, hopes and eyes that look to the future, while “For Sama” delves into the depths of the painful present with more realistic shots taken With a shaky camera trembling with the running and pounding.

It is also an expression of the director’s wounded personality, unlike the distance that separates the director of “The Captains of Zaatari” from the heroes of his film, seeing them from another external angle.

And both films take you on a relatively long time journey over the years of preparation, you see the characters and their features have changed and how the years and days have imprinted their mark on real events, to discover the role of forgotten history in the crowd of successive and accelerating developments in life.

The momentum of film production on refugees – especially Syrians – in the field of feature films is no less than documentaries. The film “Limbo” won the BAFTA Award in Scotland for the best feature film this year, and the film’s hero, the British actor of Egyptian origin, Amir Al-Masry, won the Best Prize. actor.

The events of the film revolve around the young Syrian musician Omar, who carries his grandfather’s Oud on an asylum journey until he arrives on an island in Scotland, waiting for a decision on his asylum application.

What is remarkable about the film is that the production is British, and the Arab heroes speak the Arabic language with a written translation, which adds an atmosphere of realism to the events, and the plot does not tend to drown out the tragedy as expected from a movie dealing with the refugee story, but the comic aspect is important in the film It proves that the comedy can be extended to a tragic issue such as asylum.

The comic atmosphere gave the film a human character that increased its beauty, in addition to the poetic shots that the director resorted to using the picturesque nature of Scotland.

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