Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Review: Salam Neighbor, Documentary on Syrian Refugees #refugeecrisis, #syriawar

l-r: Cecilia, Lauren Brainard, Zach Ingrasci

We saw the premier Los Angeles showing of Salam Neighbor, a documentary film by Zach Ingrasci and Chris Temple. 

Zach and Chris had done the award-winning film, Living on One Dollar a Day, which documents the resourcefulness of people in rural Guatemala who lived on a dollar a day.  In Salam Neighbor, the two young filmmakers went to Jordan's Za'atari refugee camp and lived with 85,000 displaced Syrian refugees for a month. 

l-r: Chris Temple, Zach Ingrasci

The film shows the stark but functioning UNESCO camp for Syrian refugees, one of many in Jordan, which has around 600,000 Syrian refugees.  

The documentary shows the relationship the filmmakers developed with some refugees, including a ten-year old boy, Raouf, who refuses to go to school because (we later learn) his school in Syria had been bombed. A few other refugees are highlighted. We get a sense of the life they now lead, and more importantly, we see their resiliency in recreating a community in this "tent city." The refugees, for instance, have created a thriving business section, nicknamed "Champs-Elysees," a humorous dig alluding to the famous Parisian street and the endonym of the Syrian region - "Sham."

This documentary was filmed before the massive exodus of Syrians to Europe occurred, but the movie remains relevant. It allows viewers the opportunity to ponder on the tragedy that has beset these displaced people. Salam Neighbor does not delve into the politics of the Syrian situation, but on what the filmmakers call "the humanitarian" aspect. The filmmakers and those who helped them stated the film's purpose of encouraging a "dialogue" about the Syrian situation.

To me the film says:  Here are these 85,000 people who have been uprooted from their homes, who now live in tents in Jordan, and who may have to stay there for years, what can we do to help them and their children to be productive?

While I enjoyed the filmmakers' first documentary, Living On One Dollar a Day, I have to say that their second film is not as deep as that one. I did not get to "know" the few Syrian refugees who were highlighted. I would have wanted them more fleshed-out: Where did they come from in Syria? What forced them into fleeing? How was their journey from Syria to Jordan? I would have wanted some other images aside from the footage taken in Jordan, perhaps images of the Syria they left behind, this other life that they lost. I would have wanted pictures of their old life, of their loved ones who died because of the war.

Perhaps I'm nitpicking because the movie does inform and call attention to the plight of Syrian refugees, especially now when the "Refugee Crisis" in Europe is happening. The documentary does humanize these displaced people who have unfortunately become part of numbing statistics.

Read also
Low Water Level of the Danube and Refugee Crisis
Haunting Scenes of Refugees in Munich, Germany

Tags: Syria, Syrian War, #refugees, refugee crisis, Middle East, Salam Neighbor, Za'atari Camp
This is all for now,

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