Stuck in the Doorway
A Film and Media Documentary Project
To tell the stories of our voiceless brethren forced to leave their homes as they struggle to make a new life.
Support the Stuck in the Doorway Project!
It’s now possible to support the completion of the Stuck in the Doorway Project, through the fiscal sponsorship of Perception International. All donations are fully tax deductibile.
New module: We Are Not Lost: the experience of child refugees
We are announcing a new module as part of the Stuck in the Doorway Documentary and Media Project. This piece, currently titled “We Are Not Lost” focuses on the lived experiences of child refugees and documents the immense challenges they face and the incredible resilience with which they confront the process of restarting their lives. In addition to the footage we gathered in spring and early summer of 2017, we returned to Greece in early spring of 2018 and in collaboration with the Greek NGO Solidarity Now shot additional footage of children and young people in Thessaloniki. For this shoot our crew included Syrian refugees and an American middle and high school teacher with wide experience in the problems that children face after loss, deprival and stress. The piece is currently in post-production (July, 2018) and we forsee another 2 to 3 months of (hard) work ahead. Here’s a quick trailer giving a feel for the piece and its focus. For more info, take a look at this post.
Michel Bolsey presents
at Portland State University, March 13, 2018
Co-producer Michel Bolsey joined PSU students and faculty for a wide-ranging discussion of refugee issues. The group viewed footage from Stuck in the Doorway’s filming in Greece in the spring of 2017. This talk was jointly sponsored by the PSU Migration Research Center and Multnomah Public Library’s Everybody Reads program.
Michel Bolsey presents
at events on the East Coast,
October 15, 16, 19 and 23, 2017
Co-producer Michel Bolsey presented a series of talks and video from the project at four venues on the East Coast in October. The events were as follows:
- October 15 at a private residence in Philadelphia
- October 16 at George Washington University in Washington DC. This event was hosted by the Syrian Cultural House and we were fortunate to have as co-presenter Habiba Belguedj, co-founder of the French NGO Baytna à Vous.
- October 19 Bolsey presented at Wesleyan University, sponsored by Allbritton Center.
- October 23rd, at Mariposa Museum in Peterboro, New Hampshire.
Bill Megalos presents at the
Taihe Civilizations Forum,
Beijing, August 2017
On August 25, 26, 27 Bill was invited to deliver a presentation on climate change at the Taihe Civilizations Forum in Beijing, hosted by China’s premier think tank, the Taihe Institute. He talked about how the poor are always the hardest hit by disasters and environmental issues. He pointed out that the Syrian war came about as a result of a climate change-induced drought that brought farmers to the cities and started the peaceful protests that the Assad government suppressed. He brought forth the idea of climate refugees and how in the coming years that will dwarf the current crisis. He showed this clip as part of his presentation.
Two years after we all saw overwhelming and shocking images of refugees crossing the Aegean to Greece, many of them still live in limbo. This film and media project, Stuck In The Doorway, will examine the lives of the 60,000 currently in Greece, some making a new life there, some still trying to find a new home. As we meet people and get to know them in different circumstances around the country, we will post profiles, short videos, Virtual Reality scenes and the refugees’ observations, as well as those of the Greeks and international community who are working with them. Join us on this blog as we meet these people to make our full-length documentary. Please share the link with others who might appreciate it.
https://vimeo.com/218554102 It was a pleasure to return to Thermopyles after my initial scout, this time for four days of shooting. In 2016, when there was a mad rush to the northern border as it was closing, Giorgos Palamiotis, a journalist, managed to set up...
As moving as our first day’s shoot was at Tavros, it was just a foreshadowing of the amazing time we spent in Thermopyles, our first camp visit. Thermopyles is outside the city of Lamia, several hours north of Athens. It was well known as a hot spring resort, but had...
For me this journey began back in February of 2017, when I was down in LA with my wife, visiting my in-laws. Bill and I have known each other for a very long time, since long before either of us had our now-fully-grown children. When I pass through LA, it's a normal...
Tavros is a working-class neighborhood of Athens that is home to many immigrants from different countries for the past twenty years. It was a natural choice for a school immersion program for refugee children living in the nearby Eleona camp. The program runs every...
We prepped today for our first day of shooting tomorrow, which will be in Athens. We met with Katerina Poutou, a woman who founded the NGO Arsis that does excellent work with refugees and has a passionate and very capable young staff. We hope to film some of their...
At the beginning of February I got a phone call from my friend Bill Megalos in Los Angeles, asking me if I would like to make a documentary with him, about the refugees in Greece. I've known Bill since 1989, when I worked as his assistant for four years. We've stayed...
Michel and I arrived Saturday night/Sunday morning (May 13-14) and Zaphiri made two long trips to the airport to pick us up, going to a wedding party in between. We worked hard on Sunday laying out our schedule and Zaphiri related to us all the remarkable contacts he...
Who are the refugees? The changing composition of the refugee population.
Photograph by Zaphiris Epaminondas
Who are the refugees?
The refugees currently in Greece are a mixed population from a variety of countries. In addition to Syrians there are Iraqis, Afghans, Iranians, Palestinians, Eritreans and Pakistanis, among others. From Syria, Iraq and Iran there are a mixed population of Kurds, as well as other communities and sects.
Where are the refugees? Although there are still refugees in camps on various islands, most have been moved to the Greek mainland. Many, but not all, live in camps that look like this.
Photograph by Zaphiris Epaminondas
Where are the refugees?
The Greek government has struggled for over two years with the problem of receiving, processing and housing hundreds of thousands of people arriving by boat, on foot, and via every other conceivable means of transportation. With the help of international and local NGOs, as well as funds from a variety of sources, the government recently established a system of ‘accommodation centers’ where refugees would be housed while processing their requests for emigration to other countries. However, for many categories of refugees, emigration is becoming more and more difficult, and a large population now lives on Greek soil with no clear possibility of leaving Greece anytime soon.
How many refugees are in Greece? No easy answer to this one.
Photograph by Zaphiris Epaminondas
How many refugees are currently in Greece?
Now we enter the realm of statistics and fuzzy data. There are no agreed figures at this time that we know of for the total number of refugees currently living in Greece. Numbers vary from about 55,000 to 61,000 up to 65,000. Each agency, NGO or ministry has its own data gathering protocols AND its own interpretation of the results. Each entity also has financial, political or social reasons that may affect the process. For working purposes, 60,000 or so is probably quite realistic.
Reflections on the Project
We are living in a world that faces increasing displacement of populations due to conflict, economic crises and climate change.
The traditional media focuses on the most dramatic and sensational moments of this global migration but is disinclined or unable to go beyond the surface to show the human dimension of this crisis. I am excited to be able to tell the stories of individuals and families as they make the transition to new lives in their new homes. Our focus is on the refugees themselves as well as the people they interact with.
I am grateful for the opportunity to explore these lives and could not be happier with our team. In forty years as a documentarian, I could not imagine a more capable team than ours for this project, as filmmakers, as journalists and as people. I have known Zafiri and Michel for over 30 years and there are no better collaborators.
I feel our years of experience have prepared us for this task and we are honored and grateful to be able to give voice to these people. We take our responsibility seriously and come from a place of love and respect.
Zaphiris Epaminondas, GSC Filmmaker
Nearly 100 years ago my grandfather was an army officer of the Ottoman empire. When the Greek army entered Minor Asia with the intention to liberate the Greeks who had lived there since ancient times, he defected to the Greek army. In retaliation, the Ottomans executed his wife and two children. After the defeat of the Greek army, the entire Greek population of 1.5 million left their homeland and moved to the Greek mainland as refugees.
My grandfather never spoke of his past and the decision he took that changed the fate of his family and later my own, but it was always present- My entire life experience is based on that choice.
I had my first encounter with today’s refugees in 2015 filming the refugee crisis in Lesvos; flimsy, overfilled boats landing day and night, the same way those Greeks fled the burning city of Smyrna. It was the most emotional shooting in my 30 years working in film. I could not hold my tears as I documented the safe arrival of refugees after a 6 hour trip in the water, escaping from the ongoing five year war in Syria.
The old images of Greek refugees were black and white and you could see them in lines walking with their livestock and their belongings. Today’s refugees have backpacks and mobile phones, that’s what they need to make their journey.
I repay my family’s debt by telling their stories.
Many years ago, as a schoolteacher in Lebanon, I watched as old hatreds and new fears welled up around me until, inevitably, they produced torture, murder and finally war. Like many of my friends, I had no choice but to leave. Unlike them, because I was not Lebanese, I could restart elsewhere with little more consequence than a minor case of PTSD.
Many of my Lebanese friends were forced to flee, some stayed and some did not survive. Of those who left, most spent years yearning for their homeland, wandering the world in search of a new place to call home. Some found what they were looking for, many did not. All of them deserved better than the suffering and upheaval they endured either way.
Much more recently I was unexpectedly able to discover in detail the history of the Jewish side of my family, and to know the old and young relatives who were herded by German forces into a forest, stripped, shot and dumped into a pit. Others were shot in Stalinist prison basements, or suffered unbelievable deprivation and want so intense that nothing in my life can approach it.
Where does all this hatred come from? How is it possible that we haven’t learned yet how utterly useless it is? And now we see all around us a resurgence of these old demons. Will one more documentary help bring us back into the light? Probably not, but it’s up to us to at least try.