Environmental disasters, wars and refugees Fragments of reality

“Between Fences” by Avi Mograbi
“Between Fences” by Avi Mograbi | Photo (detail): © Berlinale

“Das águas que passam”, a Brazilian short film competing for the Golden Bear, portrays the Rio Doce region that is threatened by an environmental scandal. The festival’s highlights also include one Syrian and one Israeli feature film.

Das águas que passam (Running Waters), a short film by Brazilian director Diego Zon, portrays the everyday life of Zé de Sabino, a fisherman who lives in the small town of Regência in the state of Espírito Santo. Wide, open and calm shots explore the protagonist’s relationship with water, be it the ocean or the Rio Doce. Consequently, time appears almost to stand still, unlike the water itself. “Zé approaches the ocean with a mixture of respect, intrepidness and devotion”, says the director, going on to say: “The water scenes were shot at the mouth of the Rio Doce, in the breakers where Zé de Sabino catches the robalo, the region’s most prized fish. It is a reckless undertaking because powerful waves occur at the point where the river meets the ocean.” The film was made at the Rio Doce in 2015, before the environmental disaster which saw large quantities of sewage sludge pollute the river. “The accident provoked a strong sense of loss. The river is part of our natural heritage, a place where people upheld ancient traditions and which is closely connected to their identity”, adds the director.

Ghost town

Aleppo in Syria also no longer exists in the way it did just a few years ago. During the course of the poignant 90-minute film Houses without Doors, we see how the war has transformed the street in which the director Avo Kaprealian lives. The scenes depicting normal everyday life with children playing outside, as well as the scenes of destruction, are taken from recordings the director made with a hidden camera. The film reveals a very intimate view of the war and of the life of an ordinary family which tries to keep its routines in place despite everything – until it is simply no longer possible. Parallel images of the Turkish genocide against Armenians in 1915 are also shown, lending the film additional power.

Refugees and Augusto Boal

The film Between Fences is set on the southern border of Israel, and specifically at the Holot detention centre for asylum-seekers. The film depicts the situation faced by immigrants from Eritrea and the Sudan who arrive in Israel and have to wait more than ten years for their refugee status to be recognized. Over the course of a year, the Israeli director Avi Mograbi, who is known for his political films, and the theatre director Chen Alon organized a workshop with immigrants based on the “Theatre of the Oppressed” by the Brazilian dramaturg and theatre pedagogue Augusto Boal (1931 – 2009). The film shows the entire process and the history of those involved, as well as the difficulties and prejudices they have to bear in Israel.