The film programme Migration Routes is dedicated to narrations, that are revealing worldwide causes and results of migration from various artistic perspectives. The series takes a closer look on armed conflicts as a cause of migration, on places of transit and permanently changing societies. The films tell stories of Europe’s borders, asking for the reasons why people are leaving home. It is about people, their aspirations and hopes and about the reality of life in European cities.
Funded by Berliner Landeszentrale für politische Bildung and Aktionsfonds des QM Soldiner Strasse in the frame of the programme Zukunftsinitiative Stadtteil, Soziale Stadt – Investition in die Zukunft.
Branka Pavlovic studied film and TV in Belgrade and continued her academic career with a master’s degree in Art in Context at the University of Arts Berlin. Since 2009, she has worked for the Free Zone Film Festival in Belgrade as its leading program director. She developed the art education program of nGBK Berlin and teaches as a freelance art instructor at the Freie University Berlin, leading numerous seminars and workshops.
In this tragicomic documentary set between West-Berlin and the former Yugoslavia, the story of West Berlin is told through the character of Dragan Wende. The king of West-Berlin’s 1970s hedonistic disco scene earned his money in Berlin’s most famous nightclubs. Furthermore, thanks to their Yugoslav passport, Dragan Wende and his friends could easily pass from West-Berlin to East-Berlin: they thus profited from the Berlin Wall like few others, making quick money by "importing" goods and hard currency and were loved by the Eastern Ladies. But in 1989 the Wall fell. Suddenly the border was open to everyone and everything changed. In Lena Müller and Dragan von Petrovic’s film we can observe a microcosm of underdogs and their survival strategies in absurd and sit-comic situations. Archive flashbacks interweave the history of West-Berlin with the story of Dragan Wende. An intimate and entertaining underground family-tale about the “Losers of Change” in a still-divided city.
When Vladimir Tomic was still a boy, he stood in front of “Flotel Europa“ and was hugely excited about the prospect of this gigantic ship moored in the port of Copenhagen becoming a new home for him, his mother and his older brother. Together with about 1000 other refugees from the former Yugoslavia, they started life anew on the ship. Like many families did in the early 90s, they used to send video messages on VHS to the father, who had stayed back home: footage of the communal kitchen, the windowless cabin, the TV room, excursions made with cool new friends, a dance performance by the unattainable Melisa. Director Vladimir Tomic could have just used this material to illustrate a lost childhood and the squalor of refugee life, but by editing it together and drawing on his memories of that time, he succeeds in creating something new, something of his own, something special. The shift in perspective from internal to external turns Flotel Europa into an autobiographical film about a difficult lot, which is all the more touching because it liberates the refugee from the role of the victim – and transforms a shy young man into a lovable film star.
For his documentary Return to Homs, between 2011 and 2013 director Talal Derki followed two friends in the city of Homs, who organized demonstrations against the dictatorial regime of President Bashar al-Assad. The documentary shows the career of the protagonist Abdul Baset Al-Sarout, once a goalkeeper for Syria’s national youth football team turned into a commander of a group of fighters on the side of the Free Syrian Army.
Morgan Knibbe takes us on a perilous journey across the sea, through streets and refugee shelters of “Fortress Europe”. Unconventional and poetic in form, Those Who Feel the Fire Burning documents the hopeless situation of the refugees who actually managed to make the crossing alive through the eyes of someone who already died. The voices of all these people blend together, creating a patchwork of loving memories, dreams and desires. Using a highly subjective audiovisual form, the film brings us closer to understanding the desire of the people to reach “prosperous Europe” and the disillusion which overwhelms them when they discover there’s no place for them.
Iva Radivojević’s feature documentary debut Evaporating Borders investigates the effects of immigration on the sense of national identity in Cyprus, one of the most important ports of entry into “Fortress Europe”.
Evaporating Borders offers a series of vignettes, poetically guided by the filmmaker’s curious eye and personal reflections. Through the people she encounters along the way, the film dissects the experience of asylum seekers in Cyprus: A PLO activist and exile from Iraq is denied asylum within 15 minutes; neo-Nazi fundamentalists roam the streets to attack Muslim migrants; activists and academics organize an antifascist rally and clash with the neo-Nazis; 195 migrants drowning in the Mediterranean. Poetically visualized, the film passionately weaves together the themes of migration, tolerance, identity and belonging.
Iva Radivojevic was born in 1980 in Yugoslavia and migrated in her early years to Cyprus before settling in New York. Her debut feature length documentary Evaporating Borders has received numerous awards worldwide, including One World Media Award for Refugee Reporting.
Fernand Melger spent one winter in the heart of an emergency shelter for homeless people in Lausanne. At the entrance to this hidden bunker every night the same dramatic ritual unfolds, occasionally leading to violent confrontations. The watchmen have the difficult task of “sorting the poor”: women and children first, men later if there is room. Even if the shelter can hold 100 people, only 50 “chosen ones” will be allowed inside to receive a hot meal and a bed. The others know that the night will be a long one.
The Shelter reports a new kind of poverty that hits not only Romanian Roma families, but also the former middle classes and African migrants from the crisis-shaken parts of Europe. He reveals how the rich parts of Europe deals with it. By highlighting all sides, Melgar delivers more than a social study, it’s the nightmarish analysis of a system that can’t be repaired by merciful donations.
It is a modern odyssey, a dizzying, science fiction-like journey into the heart of Africa. At the moment when Sudan, the continent’s biggest country, is being divided into two nations, an old "civilizing" pathology re-emerges – that of colonialism, clash of empires, and yet new episodes of bloody (and holy) wars over land and resources. According to the Netzwerk Flüchtlingsforschung, most of refugees come from countries with ongoing armed conflicts where neocolonial and geostrategic interests of the industrialized nations meet the interests of the local war lords.
Hubert Sauper, the award-winning director of Darwin’s Nightmare takes us on a voyage in his tiny, self-made flying machine out of tin and canvas, leading us into the most improbable locations and into people’s thoughts and dreams in both stunning and heartbreaking ways. Chinese oil workers, UN peacekeepers, Sudanese warlords, and American evangelists ironically weave common ground in this documentary.
On his way from south of the Sahara to Europe, Mohamed is constantly haunted by three questions: will I drown in the sea, will I get there, will I be banished once I am there? Foreign follows the journey of the young man from Mali to the vantage point to Europe. One of the oldest routes to a better life runs through Algeria to Morocco and finally to Spain. The documentary gives a face to migration across the Mediterranean. Mohamed, the first born of a family of seven, is sent travelling when the family has a need for a provider. The parents sell their cows to fund his way – turning back is not an option. On this years-long journey all sense of time disappears, and one’s worth as a human being is based solely on hope.
Miriam Fassbender (born 1980 in Munich) studied film at the Famu Academy in Prague. She works as a camerawomen and film director and currently lives in Berlin. Foreign is her first feature documentary.
Regardless if they come from Syria, Afghanistan or North Africa, they have a long, tiring and dangerous journey behind them. Placed in asylum centres, they need to undergo a period of adaptation to the life and social circumstances in Serbia. In most cases, however, their goal is to reach one of the EU countries. In Želimir Žilnik's Docu-drama Destination Serbistan, refugees reenact episodes of their own lifes. The film offers them the opportunity to show their individual experiences and values beyond the socio-political context in which they found themselves; to become heroes that viewers can identify with and whose destiny and struggle they can understand. The new ground-breaking form of Destination Serbistan deals with one of the most burning issues of our present, consequently denying any appropriation by imaginary and identifying cultural politics.
Želimir Žilnik (born in Niš in 1942) has written and directed numerous feature and documentary films which have reaped many awards at domestic and international film festivals including Golden Bear at the Berlinale 1969 for his first feature Early Works and Teddy Award for Marble Ass in 1995. Žilnik is renowned as an initiator of the “docudrama” genre. From the very beginning, his films have focused on contemporary issues in Yugoslavia and the Balkan region, featuring social, political and economic examinations of everyday life.
“When the bombs fell, the first thing we did was run away. It was not until later that we realized we had not looked back. We were not allowed to say goodbye to our home, our memories, our photos and the life that was lived within them. We have become vacant like these spaces; our hastily packed belongings and the forgotten things haunt us.” An uncertain existence followed the escape and expulsion from Syria that tumbled into a physical and mental nowhere, a non-space between yesterday and tomorrow. Haunted speaks of the loss of home and security, of the real and metaphorical meaning which a house, a home has in one’s life.
Liwaa Yazji was born in Moscow in 1977. She is a graduate of Theater Studies in Damascus and worked in the fields of theater dramaturgy, playwriting, and screen writing. She acted in Abdullatif Abulhamid’s September Rain (Syria, 2009). In 2012 she published her first play Here in the Garden and is currently preparing the second one with the Royal Court Theatre. In 2014, her poetry book Peacefully, we leave home was published in Beirut. Haunted is Liwaa Yazji’s directorial debut and was shown in numerous festivals.
Eurovillage, a resort in the Belgian Ardennes, was converted in 2011 into a refugee reception center. The inhabitants living there indefinitely wait for the processing of their asylum application. "Wait and wait and wait and hope" - this statement by one of the women describes their everyday life aptly. The macabre ambivalence of the place highlights the plight of the refugees all the more: where others enjoy their free time, they are condemned to wait for their freedom.