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More dangerous than fiction. Filmmaker follows refugees’ journey from Syria

Filmmaker Matthew Cassel follows a family’s journey from Syria towards Europe, documenting the perilous voyage in six episodes.

Originally from Syria, jeweller Aboud Shalhoub had been living in Istanbul, Turkey, for two and a half years. He hoped to find a job that would allow him to relocate his wife, Christine, and their two young children from Damascus, in Syria.

In April 2015 he decided to attempt a journey to Europe in the hope that once there he could apply for asylum status and family reunification, and finally see his wife and children again.

The perilous Journey from Syria

Aboud’s story got the attention of filmmaker Matthew Cassel. He decided to follow Aboud and his younger brother Amer, who had recently joined him in Istanbul, on their journey.

“My bosses weren’t really interested in the story, but I was interested in Aboud – I was amazed by his motivation and what he was willing to do to be with his family,” Cassel told the Intercept. “I picked up a camera and started filming with him, and kind of self-funded for the first four or five months”.

What followed was a long journey of uncertainty and difficulties, but also of hope and kindness, documented in six episodes published by The New Yorker. As it follows Aboud travelling towards Europe, the film simultaneously follows the story of his family in Damascus.

“That was something crucial, because I didn’t want to focus only on the journey. I wanted to tell a full picture of this family,” explains Cassel.

As well as the risks and fears of a journey with an uncertain outcome, the film highlights that refugees are leaving their families and lives in their home countries in the hope for a safer and better future. “It’s really crucial to understand who these refugees and economic migrants coming to Western countries are, and what they’re leaving behind”. Just like About and his family, this dilemma is one millions of other Syrians are having to confront.

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