Entertainment International

Refugees’ stories inspire filmmakers at Berlin Film Festival

FILE PHOTO: (L-R) Film director Karim Ainouz, Ibrahim Al Hussein from Syria, and Qutaiba Nafea from Iraq pose for the photographer ahead of an interview with Reuters about Ainouz’s Berlinale International Film Festival entry movie “Central Airport THF” at historic Tempelhof Airport in Berlin, Germany February 13, 2018.  REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo

By Riham Alkousaa

BERLIN (Reuters) – Migration, an issue that has vexed Germany since its 2015 refugee crisis, proved fertile ground for filmmakers at this year’s Berlin Film Festival where they showcased movies looking at refugees’ stories of escape, arrival and integration.

This year’s Berlinale – the 68th edition of the festival set up in 1951 to showcase films addressing social and political issues – shows refugees’ experiences in at least eight entries ranging from documentaries to an adaptation of a 1940s novel.

Filmmakers at the festival said they wanted to send a political message and show how migration was changing Europe.

“It’s much more that you now look at what refugees are doing after they arrived in our Europe. What is their future?” said Dieter Kosslick, the festival’s director.

“Eldorado”, by Swiss director Markus Imhoof, follows migrants who were rescued from near the Libyan coast and taken to Italy where they could either wait in shelters and sometimes end up being deported or leave the camps to work illegally and risk being exploited.

In the film, Imhoof also tells a personal story of his family taking in an Italian girl after World War Two and having to give her up.

Another documentary, “Central Airport THF”, shows the lives of those who stay and wait in asylum shelters through a 15-month blog of a Syrian refugee living in Berlin’s Tempelhof airport.

“The most important question politically speaking to Europe now is how can Europe be a diverse continent. It is really great that there are films that are dealing with that,” said Karim Ainouz, the Brazilian film director.

Through a fictional story that is set in contemporary France showing Germans escaping troops that are occupying Marseilles, “Transit”, adapts a novel by Jewish author Anna Seghers telling her own escape story from Nazi Germany in 1940.

The film which is one of 19 films competing for the festival’s Golden Bear award, details the desperate journey of refugees trying to secure visas and official papers in a bid to escape persecution.

German director Christian Petzold said he wanted to send a political message concerning the idea of asylum law in the German constitution.

In “Styx”, a female solo sailor faces a dilemma when she sees an overcrowded boat carrying refugees, some of whom jump off as it starts to sink.

The coastguard tells her not to assist, assuring her that help is on the way but the hours pass and when a young refugee boy starts swimming towards her, she steers her boat towards him, takes him on board and nurses him.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei who covered the facade of Berlin’s concert hall with 14,000 life jackets from refugees during Berlinale two years ago, showcases his first feature length film. “Human Flow” is a documentary visiting more than 40 refugee camps in 23 countries.

(Reporting by Riham Alkousaa; Editing by Edmund Blair)

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