“The world is facing an unprecedented displacement crisis,” European Commission has said. The EU has been discussing the aforementioned issue for months; however, their help is inadequate to deal with the rising numbers of dislodged people who are predominantly refugees from war-torn countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Many people arrive in the EU after dangerous sea journeys and require basic humanitarian assistance, such as provision of clean water, health care and emergency shelters. Many of these displaced individuals are young children and teenagers who have special protection needs. Unfortunately, there is not enough support provided by local governments, and the only people that refugees can count on are charities and a limited number of kind-hearted volunteers.
When the filmmaker Richard Wyllie – known for directing documentary films for BBC1, ITV and Channel 4 in the UK, as well as Nat Geo in the US – decided to spend five days on one of the Greek islands and record the experiences of refugees who managed to reach the country’s shore, he surely didn’t expect the chaos and lack of humanitarian help to be so appalling. Those caught in the crisis – on daily basis – are forced to deal with measureless obstacles before reaching their desired destination; the viewers feel a profound empathy not only for those filmed refugees, but also for all who are ready to risk everything for the dream of a better and safer life. Richard Wyllie not only concentrates on refugee crisis, he also focuses his attention on volunteers who – without a hesitation – help those in need.
The film director conducts interviews with both refugees and volunteers, and what they have to say is deeply unsettling. One of the refugees, a young boy – maybe 13/14 years old- talks about his mother and sister who are still in Syria: “I am going to Europe to secure their lives, to secure our future.” If this doesn’t make you upset, then I do not know what would; no child should carry such a burden, they should be allowed to grow up in a safe environment. The enormous risks that this desperate boy has taken in order to improve his and his family’s life is beyond my comprehension. On top of that, the volunteers also face complex and tough decisions; however, they do their best in the face of crisis – and Eric Kempson is the perfect example. He is a Lesvos resident who has been helping the refugees for a while now; Eric also has to deal with criminal charges for assisting them to survive. His daily routine is to look for boats in trouble – and every day, the situation gets worse. Sadly, many people are divided on the issue of either saving the refugees or forcing them to return to their native countries. Where do you stand on this subject yourself?
The film may basically be an argument for an immigration reform in Europe (and across the world); that said, it is – without a doubt – a compelling picture about people who must endure hunger and loss, and who struggle to survive. Five Days on Lesvos is about compassion and generosity of locals and charities (Boat Refugee Foundation) who unhesitatingly lend a helping hand to the displaced people. Through the volunteers, we can learn that one should love one’s neighbour, even if one’s neighbour has a foreign accent and a different culture. This is a must-see documentary!
Written by Maggie Gogler
Edited by Sanja Struna
All photos © Five Days on Lesvos Film Partners