Life on the Border- Berlinale

It iIt is easy to foresee that in years to come the refugee crisis will not be defining this decade. So enormous has it now become, not just in the Mediterranean but also throughout the Middle East, that this great movement of people, displaced by heinous acts of terror and the surrounding civil wars, has irreversibly changed the shape of the modern world.

Life on the Border, which focuses on those whose lives have been destroyed by ISIS, is a compilation film comprised of eight shorts written, directed and shot by children from refugee camps in Kobane, Syria, and Singal, Iraq. Each film attempts to narrate life from inside the camps, the events that brought these children to these camps, and their hopes for the future, giving a voice to those who have had almost everything else taken from them.

The opening short, Shengal’s Beloved, is truly an exceptional piece of filmmaking. Directed by Hazem Khodeide, it is largely poetic work, demonstrating an incredibly precocious talent in the use of editing and aesthetics. The film is so sophisticated, one could almost imagine it being the latest by Elia Suleiman. Similarly, the second short, In Search of the Truth, directed by Bashem Soleiman, opting for a style closer to documentary, shows a young filmmaker of great intelligence, one who has the courage to play with form and style and, most importantly, who desperately wants to communicate with the viewer.

Due to these opening films being so good, a dip in the quality of the other shorts means the production as a whole does slightly tail off. This is not to claim the following films are without
emotional impact and aesthetic ability, but, unfortunately, they simply do not match the incredible impressiveness of the two openers. That said, the short Toward Home, directed by Mahmod Ahmad, is a very strong narrative work, telling the story of a young boy and his sister returning to their home in Kobane to find their the whole town annihilated following the catastrophic bombings.

These works in combination produce a peculiar feeling of both terror and hope, at once presenting to the viewer the most pure and revolting evil that exists in the world today, whilst simultaneously evidencing that the human spirit, that most phenomenal thing, is and will always be unending.

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