British sisters Georgia and Sophia Scott premiered their documentary in London, depicting through four stories how the million and a half Syrian refugees live in this border country. Without the sensationalism by large news chains which we have grown used to, the lives of the displaced people appear as we have never seen before.
Marcos Ortiz F.
Living with the fear of death but at the same time having children. Grateful to have been received in Lebanon but longing for their native Syria. The fear of deportation but in the background a glimmer of hope.
Complex, empathetic, respectful, educated. The Syrian refugees who bring to life “Lost in Lebanon”, during 90 minutes of film become endearing characters
“They are your mother, they are your sister, they are your brother, your father, your friend”, Sophie Scott explains to The Prisma.
“The nights we stayed at their camp eating dinner with them are some of the fondest memories I have in my entire life”, says her sister Sophie at her side.
The Scott Sisters premiered their new documentary at the Human Right’s Watch Film Festival in London.
After their debut “In the shadow of war” (2014), which showed the lives of four young people 20 years after the war in Bosnia, they have now decided to view life during a conflict.
“What made us want to go to Syria is obviously that there is a burning conflict. And for us to have gone inside Syria would have been very dangerous and we wouldn’t have been able to spend a lot of time freely moving around with families”, explains Sophia.
The situation is unparalleled: 1.5 million Syrian refugees live in a country of only 4.4 million people.
Georgia adds “We felt the world, the media, the people have been saturated with numbers, with statistics. And when that happens you kind of lose that human connection you have with other people and other stories. So, we wanted to put a human face back on this horrendous Syrian crisis. And we chose to do that in Lebanon by documenting these four wonderful Syrians over the course of a year and a half”.
This is how we come to see the improvised schools built for children learning how to read and write. “They are traumatized. These kids have experienced horrendous things. You can see the parents, the teachers in the informal camp schools, they try to normalize life, create playtime, which is really important. But what we were struck by is that burning desire to learn”, Sophie tells us.
You show a place where 20,000 people used to live and now there are 40,000. What were your limits regarding human dignity?
G: It’s a difficult question because we are always thinking about it. A good example is that for a time in the film we had footage inside Syria of a hospital and there were scenes you can’t imagine. They were filmed by one of our friends who had a camera there. And there were children who had holes in their bodies, it was horrendous, and that was in the film for a time – like a flashback. But we ended up taking it out. I think there is enough bloodshed films that show the bloodshed, that show the fighting in war, and we didn’t want to make another film like that. Regarding dignity and respect, we wanted to show the uttermost respect for the Syrians in our film. I think we’ve captured their reality without having to expose too much of the brutality.
There is fear all over the film. Fear of deportation, of taking a daughter to the hospital. Would you say that’s what really moves the characters?
S: Yes. Definitely, they all have that same fear. It drives them to carry on living, but it also drives them into a hole, a very scary place, because they are thankful that they are no longer living under the bombing and the harassment of the regime. They are thankful so they don’t want to complain too much, but at the end of the day they are petrified, because they are living in somebody else’s country. But we definitely didn’t want to film in the worst muddy camps, because that’s the image of a refugee anywhere in the world unfortunately, as somebody very poor, tough dressed, living in a tent. And of course there are Syrians living like that, but there are many,many.many Syrians that are not living quite as bad as that.
We don’t normally have access to these kinds of images of refugees. Do you feel you had a special responsibility as filmmakers?
S: Yes, absolutely. And I think it’s so counterproductive to show a country and people as negative, and somebody to fear. We wanted to try and remove that negativity of the Syrian refugee, because that affects policies in Europe.
G: But also, I feel our film documents the chapter before all the refugees are trying to get to Europe. I have a lot of friends asking why are they trying to come here? It’s people who have no other option and say maybe I should take a boat to Europe, because maybe I’ll have a life there. I don’t have a life here, I can’t have a life here, I’ve tried but I can’t because I am being stopped on all sides. If somebody is questioning why all these Syrians are trying to come to Europe, well, our film shows why.
Somebody in the film says “the indifference and prejudice from the West is breath-taking”. Is that one of the reasons why you made this film?
S: The only reason why we make films is to create change. Whether it’s changing one person’s opinion about another person, or whether it’s changing policy within governments to welcome more refugees.
(Intro translated by Gareth Trevor)