Thursday, March 10, 2016

Tuntematon pakolainen / Refugee Unknown

Hamy Ramezan | Finland 2016 | Documentary | 79 min
P: Veera Ikonen. SC: Veera Ikonen, Hamy Ramezan, Ali Jahangiri, Aram Aflatuni. Cinematography: Hamu Ramezan, Arsen Sarkisiants. S: Toni Teivaala. ED: Katja Pällijeff.
    Contact: ITV Studios Finland / Veera Ikonen,
    Tampere Film Festival (TFF) National Competition 5
    In the presence of Hamy Ramezan, Ali Jahangiri, Veera Ikonen, etc.
    In Farsi and English with English subtitles and e-subtitles in Finnish.
    10 March 2016 | 18:00 | Plevna 2

TFF introduction: "In the autumn of 2015, the Finnish-Iranian Ali Jahangiri wanted personally to experience the reality faced by refugees in Europe. Ali travelled across Europe to Finland with refugees who had landed in Greece. Refugee Unknown is an authentic documentary of encounters not covered by the news."

AA: In the discussions at the cinema before and after the film the film-makers emphasized that they want to keep a distance to the stereotyped debate on the refugee crisis. Hamy Ramezan stated that human reality is simpler than the images in the media. Ali Jahangiri added that his anxiety was higher before they started the project. When these people manage to escape it is one of the most joyful moments in their lives. Ramezan said that the final long image of the boy looking at the camera in Mytilene was one of the most important moments. The boy helped Ramezan to see and go through his own feelings. It was a Mexican stand-off, a staring contest where the boy won Ramezan who was squatting with a 8 kg camera on his shoulder. The sun set, darkness fell, and everybody in the Mytilene harbour was watching them. Finally Hamy gave up. Ali and Hamy stated that the debate on refugees has gone wildly awry. Hamy: there is an attempt to lead us via fear. We must take care not to be a part of this, that the debate does not lead us too much to the side of hate. The film-makers concluded by stating that there are no such barriers in the world of children. Very soon the children are taken to school, and a process of integration is started. The world of children gives us hope.

There is a home movie approach in Refugee Unknown. Both Hamy Ramezan and Ali Jahangiri have themselves come via this route some 25 years ago.

We witness the night at sea. Refugees are dragged to the shore of the island Lesbos. There is a refugee camp at Moria. The film starts in English and continues in Farsi. The camps are surrounded by barbed wire. The black market is in full swing. There is a long sequence of children washing their faces and socks. We come to the Mytilene harbour. A happy little girl makes fun of Ali. From Mytilene, we travel to Athens. We meet greedy taxi drivers. We hear the story of the guy who was robbed. At the Greek-Macedonian border there is a huge bank for charging mobile phones. Clowns perform for children. At the Macedonian-Serbian border a Syrian-Palestinian invalid in wheelchair is helped along difficult paths. Little by little we learn details from Iran, a control society with little freedom. Alcohol among many things is strictly controlled there but a lot of drugs are used. There are many cameras recording the crossing of the border. We proceed to Croatia and follow the action of the police at the border. We proceed further to the border between Austria and Germany. People laugh when they hear that Hamy and Ali are going to Finland. "Why Finland?" "There's plenty of room in Finland. There are five million Finns only. There are 15 million people in Teheran. I'm looking for peace and comfort." A 14-year old guy from Afghanistan has lost his family during a shooting. We hear about smugglers who just throw people to the sea. Next we are on icy waters. Cut to the final shot of the boy at Mytilene in the staring contest with Hamy Ramezan.

There is an approach of humanity in this movie. It is not about facts and figures, not about the big picture. It is about the human detail. These characters are not representatives of a phenomenon but individuals. Family ties are strong. New extended families are formed during the trek. It is important to be a part of the group even in emigration.

The most memorable images are those of the eyes of children.

I have just finished reading The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides. The island of Lesbos and the town of Mytilene feature prominently also in that account of the terrible 30-year war in Greece where the Persian Empire was a key player. What we are experiencing now is also a part of a very long story.

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