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 Epamonindas, 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 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 phone, 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, many 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 the deserved better than the suffering and upheaval that came to them 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, 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.