Stories of refugees and immigrants are all over the news these days. But mostly they’re about numbers and policy while the people are faceless and nameless. What this gritty documentary does is put names and faces on a family who are forced to flee their home and navigate the horrid landscape of the refugee system to find a safe place. Shot entirely on their smart phones, it’s the story of Hassan Fazili, an Afghan filmmaker who was marked for death by the Taliban and escaped with his family, crossing border after border to find a home in Europe. It’s a day by day chronicle of what a family has to endure to satisfy the requirements of various immigration systems. From leaving Afghanistan to finally getting asylum in Germany, they filmed themselves for almost two full years on their 3,500-mile journey.
What keeps you watching is the toll it takes on the two young daughters and the mother Fatima Hussaini (also a filmmaker), but also their moments of being a normal family and enjoying one another, learning to ride a bike and having a snowball fight. As they pass from one temporary home to another, the kids make friends and play, as the mother finds ways to make the place feel like home, only to pack it all up and trek through the forest at night to the next way station. It’s a personal story, but probably very universal in the ways that families of refugees and immigrants have to handle the stress of being alone out in the wide world, only yearning to find that final place they can again call home.
You fall in love with the two girls and hope they find a place to flourish. And the crushing weight of their predicament is always on the mother’s face. Dad is hiding behind the camera, but his voice is ever present and his editing choices tell of his perspective on their stateless existence. For being shot on cell phones it is extremely visual. This is one to look for when it streams. I’m not sure it will change anyone’s mind about the refugee crisis, but it’s a well told story.