A few months ago, Madrid For Refugees hosted a Refufilms event, screening ‘Faraway Land’, a documentary directed by Josepmaria Anglès and Daniel Azpe, and shot in Athens in May 2017. Following the film screening, our very own events coordinator Juanfran convened a discussion between Angles, two refugee workers from Madrid; Jorge Villegas González and Esther Pérez Franco, and the audience, in order to reflect on the film’s content and explore some of the issues in relation to asylum seekers here in Spain.
Focusing on the lives of Syrian and Afghan refugees in particular, we were given no time to brace ourselves for the heart-breaking content of the film; it opens with footage of bombing in Syria, layered with a Syrian woman saying ‘everyday one of us dies’. She goes on to say that fleeing such a deathly situation is also be dangerous and difficult, but there is no third solution; these words introduce the harsh reality that asylum seekers don’t have options.
Dalal, a Syrian wife and mother of four children, explains that her husband refused to fight for the regime in Syria; the decision to escape consequently warrants collaboration with mafias and traffickers. We’ve all seen images of refugees arriving in Europe by boat, but watching raw footage of a group of Syrians packed on to a lifeboat, and being able to hear the water and their chanting of ‘Allahu akbar’ (God is great), more accurately depicts the sheer fear and danger they and more than a million other refugees have experienced on their journeys. Dalal even admits to looking at her children and wondering which one of them would die first; thankfully they all survived.
Although it is crucial that such documentaries convey the tragedy that is risking your life and leaving behind what you know, in hopes to live a better life, the directors succeed in portraying the subjects of the film as simply human. Dalal’s children are laughing and playing as if they’ve forgotten their trauma; Kabir is falling in love and dedicating himself to his interests and helping in the community; Hussain struggles with depression but finds solace in his passion for art; and Shamoon celebrates his birthday surrounded by friends, music and cake. The friendships that form between the refugees and the volunteers were particularly moving, and demonstrated how genuine human connection can transcend differences in linguistic, cultural and overall life experiences.
Whilst the film leaves you with feelings of hope knowing that Dalal and her children reunited with their Dad, and Kabir was able to get married, a Belgian volunteer named Genny discusses the bitter sweet reality that these asylum seekers will always bury their pain and unthinkable experiences through moments of joy, laughter and hope. At MFR we hope to ease the pain and offer hope to asylum seekers living here in our community; join us by attending events, donating, and spreading the word.
For more about the film visit https://www.farawayland.org
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