Recently, Eris has been on the march for private funding for We Are Nameless, specifically in order to visit some place near Syria and get a better sense of where Syrian and other refugees are coming from. Reaching out to larger organizations requires many lengthy conversations and this particular one is a great example of the process that goes on behind the scenes in making an independent film like this. For transparency and general understanding, I thought it appropriate to share a little. The following is a conversation with the head of a philanthropic organization and myself.
1. The film should be broadened, although I know there are limited resources and time. Perhaps you might think about adding Jordan to your itinerary for this reason: in Jordan, the refugees are in camps in the north (such as Zaatari) and also have settled in urban areas such as Zarqa. The circumstances for the two groups are very very different. There are also many Iraqi refugees in Jordan who have, in their words “been forgotten” in the midst of the Syrian crisis.
I would absolutely be open to filming in Jordan. Though not mentioned in the project proposal, I have connections there that can provide me with inroads, places to stay, etc where I may see firsthand what is going on. The only reason why this is not in the proposal is simply a matter of distraction, in that showing every single place I’d like to go with an unlimited budget would potentially give the appearance of aimlessness on my part. If time, budget and circumstance permit, I am certainly going to Jordan.
2. Another issue to consider is that the prospects for Muslim Syrians vs. Christian Syrians are very very different, the latter being much more easily “placed” in other (western) countries than the former.
You are absolutely right about the dynamic between Christian and Muslim refugees in terms of placement. I found this to be the case in my interviews with refugees who had made it to Greece. Additionally, I also found a big difference in how fast opportunities came for those refugees who left with wealth vs. those who had little to nothing.
These nuanced dynamics of class and religious background / education level play a role. The challenge for me, lies in relaying such an expansive suite of details to a weary Western audience that is both flooded by visions of suffering and a glut of raw information. For these reasons, I’ve kept the narrative to a conversation across the continent of Europe between refugees and their European hosts, with the addition of filming in the Middle East as a kind of surprise to Western viewers, because they view this as a European crisis.
The intent is to provoke care by putting them face to face with their fellow humans and also show that the crisis is not eurocentric. Speaking directly to your point, it has been my understanding that Afghani refugees are some of the most despised among refugees and those processing them due to a generally lower level of education.
3. Perhaps you already know about the strictures against working that apply to the refugees in Jordan and Lebanon, which leaves the women working at home as the sole breadwinners.
I was told about this in passing by an aide worker and unfortunately similar situations are occurring elsewhere. While in Greece, the men living in squats complained most about not being able to work, to move either backwards, or forward. Again, the sheer size of the issue poses a challenge in terms of how much of each thing to include.
4. Germany is doing job training and language training for refugees—a model for other countries.
This is a really good step on the part of Germany, however, after speaking with Hussein Mar, a refugee, now Law student in Geissen, Germany, it became apparent that even the good work is very taxing. Living in dormitory conditions with a mixture of refugees created its own set of challenges, especially in terms of angst.
Refugees are not allowed to get jobs in Germany, or have a chance at citizenship until they have a demonstrably strong command of German. Learning and mastering a new language takes months upon months at the very quickest and potential years for many. While the logic for not allowing integration until they can speak the language has its merit, it also makes the isolation problem worse.
I interviewed two men who work to help refugees and one of them, especially has exposed the wheeling and dealing that Germany is doing by trading away the refugees they don’t want for the more fashionable Syrian ones. Since money is exchanged and refugees without rights are being traded around, it amounts to state sanctioned human trafficking. Because this is being brought to light, both local government and racist factions in Germany have put a lot of pressure on these people I’ve interviewed.
Another element of this that came up is the fact that while refugees are encamped they are often hidden away for major metropolitan areas and freedom of movement is extremely limited. I found, during my travels that it was very hard to FIND refugees, because they were stored out of sight. This was common, not just in Germany, but in the Scandinavian countries as well.
5. Have you read Maria Margaronis’ work in The Nation on the refugees in Greece?
I’ve heard her interview with Democracy Now. What she’s saying about conditions there is true. Unfortunately conditions don’t look to be getting better. When I was there, I had run out of funds and was actually eating with refugees living in squats in Exarchia. The area is run and protected by an anarchist collective of squatters who have populated the area for a very long time. The square there is always full of people who are suffering that cross section of poverty, hunger, mental illness, police corruption and violence.
This particular point is one of the most important elements of the film, because it speaks to the long term despair that refugees have ahead of them. People are broken, scared, and becoming angry. This element, mixed with showing conditions in Lebanon (and Jordan if possible) is the point, refugees are not going away and this problem will persist for decades even after the fad of talking about a “refugee crisis” has lost its popularity.
6. Have you received other funding apart from Kickstarter?
Initial funding came from a private benefactor who gave about 12K. This covered expenses for myself and my assistant and some heftier equipment expenses, etc. after that, I’ve personally invested an additional 8K+ to the project and have been working on it on my own for the last several months, while restoring normal life here in Brooklyn.
7. How will you get the film seen apart from the festivals?
Every project I have been a part of so far has either been web based, or for corporate clients. This is my first full length film, and as such, my plans are listed in the proposal I sent. Beyond that, I have associates who will be showing the film to distributors once it’s complete. I am fresh out of grad school and this is my first major project, so I am heeding the guidance of two other filmmakers (working for HBO and VICE respectively) in regards to how to move forward with distribution.
Thank you for taking the time to ask these questions. I hope I have sufficiently answered them for you. If you have further inquiries, I’m more than happy to speak with you, or your representatives over the phone, or in person.