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Profession: Refugee
Svebor Kranjc


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Profession: Refugee
Svebor Kranjc
 
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One's Own Body as the Only Safe Haven
Boris Cvjetanović
 

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Profession: Refugee
Svebor Kranjc
As media interest in refugees usually stops with the well-known TV News images of crying women & children on the road to nowhere, this film actually starts from this point. I was myself one of the TV cameramen filming crying women & children for BBC News and Reuters TV Agency during Bosnian wars (1992-95), and Albanian crisis (1997). Therefore I have had personal contact with many refugees on the move...and I know they usually cry for the camera, especially older women. Later, in 1998. I went to Amsterdam (again). Where I met Ms. Nives Rebernak, who works professionally with refugees in the Netherlands since 1991. Her extraordinary life and work in this field gave the necessary content and depth to the idea of making such a film.

Aspiration:

Because of my direct involvement in the making of the TV image of refugees, I felt responsible to offer a different image, the one that starts where TV news stop, and continues uncovering personal reflections of people from around the world, who used to be refugees a long time ago, but now live a new life somewhere else... Hopefully, this film will shed some light on the "human subject" of refugees, "discovering" them as individual humans BEYOND wicked collective experiences of terror and ruined destinies...

Synopsis & Treatment

Film will begin with an opening sequence made of archive material, showing the News pictures of various refugee crisis in the world, edited together in a story of war, danger and escape. Then the film will shift to a "safe place", which is Amsterdam today, and we follow our main character, ms. Nives Rebernak, a Dutch social worker (originally coming from Croatia). She is cooking dinner and introducing herself as a founder and director of HOME for peace and nonviolence, a refugee-oriented grassroots organization that has functioned within her own living room since 1991. From then onwards, during the entire ex-Yugoslavian wars, hundreds of people have literally found refuge in this apartment, disregarding their national and religious differences (Bosnians, Croats, Serbs, Gypsies, Hungarians, Albanians). The very dish Nives is cooking is "...loved by all nationalities, despite wars" (we are being given a short TV-recipe!!!) This dinner becomes an introduction for Dr. Melina Rakic, a Bosnian Muslim refugee who is (after eating) telling her story "... People think in stereotypes. Sometimes, I feel like I am not a good enough refugee, because I was not raped in the war..." Here, the picture abruptly shifts to a dead woman in the dust, dragged by a horse, with a crowd shouting and yelling (Somalia APTN archive). Picture goes back to Amsterdam and Nives Rebernak is saying: "I often feel like a refugee. It is very hard to juggle with two worlds all the time..." Here again the picture shifts to the "archive horror footage", in such a way justifying this visual rhythmic shift which will continue to happen throughout the film for a few reasons:

1) to "remind" the viewer of the frightful past as opposed to a peaceful present of all the persons in this film.

2) to project the psychological stress of every refugee's broken line between the past life and a present one.

3) to allow necessary breaks in tension between each part of the story told in the camera

4) to enable visual design of the associative editing structure to appear in full strength.

The picture goes back to Dr. Melina Rakic, as she performs her daily duties of a house-doctor in Amsterdam. "...I am not only refugee here, in the Netherlands, but also back home, I would be considered as a kind of dissident, a rare bird...the world that I knew does not exist any more..." Simple cut to Ayan Mahmoud, refugee from Somalia, who is introduced here with a similar understanding of this issue: "We have left our land and the land is not waiting for us. The family structure and pride are destroyed. Society, everything. All is gone." The film goes on introducing personal reflections of ten (10) refugees from all over the world (Iran, Somalia, Bosnia, Kurdistan, Yugoslavia, Croatia and Tibet), all currently living in the Netherlands where they managed (or not!) to integrate in the Dutch society. We shall uncover the striking similarities in their understanding of life, despite obvious differences in skin colour and cultural & religious backgrounds, but (ironically) thanks to a common experience of danger, escape and continuation of life in a different and unknown environment - in this case: the Netherlands.

These people's personal reflections are the main content of our film. There will be no commentary text, only living people talking... Sentences will intermingle, inter cut, follow each other or oppose each other. The world will actually lead us through the film, and pictures (without words) will be used as punctuations (a comma, a question mark? a point. or a scream!!! or simply silence...) between words. During these visual punctuations, sound will be treated sometimes as a separate entity of expression, composing (mixed with pictures) associative audiovisual"bricks" or "puzzles" - for the viewer to ponder upon or to laugh at.

Slowly building up the tension between "words" and "punctuations" we arrive to the culmination of the film: the sequence in which the camera follows Nives Rebernak and members of her refugee organization HOME to the private audience with the 14th Dalai Lama in Den Haag. For Nives, "...his religious views are not important for us, but only the fact that Dalai Lama is a "veteran refugee" with 40 years of experience..." (Dalai Lama has been driven out of Tibet by Chinese Army in 1959.)
Considering this, the Dalai Lama addresses"nonbelievers" and "those who carry hatred". These words of advice are exclusively filmed for Profession: Refugee

"...and if you carry a lot of violence, or hatred, than you should try to eliminate all your enemies. Everybody. Then, maybe, it would be reasonable to kill. But, of course, that is impossible, hahaha. So, killing is not only morally wrong, but also practically, it doesn't work. So, when you realize that killing is of no use, than you should immediately stop and avoid all the thinking and actions that lead towards such an impossible goal..."

After visiting the Dalai Lama, Nives is very happy: she rolls her wheelchair down the slope and lets the gravity to take over with a scream of joy! The wheelchair rolls down on its own, straight towards the North Sea, and it's sunset on the fancy beach of Scheveningen.

Profession: Refugee slowly comes to its close with a few "light" remarks of our refugees, such as what they miss in the Netherlands. The "archive horror shifts" are very rare by now, if there are any (to be known exactly only after the basic editing rhythm is set during the rough cut). The "punctuations" between words are still happening in the film. The final sentence before the last shot will be the one by Ayan Mahmoud from Somalia:
"Dutch people are so direct. Once I was traveling in the train and I met a guy. We had a few words, and when he found out I was a muslim from Somalia, he asked me if I was circumcised!!?? My god! I would never be able to ask somebody such a question in the train!!! I think I will need nine more years in the Netherlands, to get accustomed to such a behaviour..."

The closing shot is of the windmill (actually, a dozen of high-tech windmills in a typical Dutch landscape). This is why: the english word "refugee" is "vluchtelling" on Dutch, which actually means "wind-blown". Windmills are, therefore, a perfect match as such.


Svebor Kranjc
Artist based in Zagreb, Croatia and Amsterdam, Holland

svebor@zg.hinet.hr






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