On Monday, January 23 in College Hall I was lucky enough to see one of the documentaries, which was part of the Human Rights Film Series presented by the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures called Salam Neighbor. It was about these two filmmakers, Zach and Chris, who stayed at the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan for a month and to depict their experience with these Syrian Refugees. It was an incredible thing to see because these filmmakers were the first ever to be allowed by the United Nations to register and set up at the refugee camp. The film focuses on five Syrian refugees: a grandma who was struggling to deal with the loss of her sons due to war, a 10-year-old boy Raouf who was struck by fear, a nurse/single mother who truly shows resilience, a relief worker who lost everything he worked for, and a young father who was unable to complete his education. The goal of the production was to show others what life was like inside these refugee camps. We got to see firsthand the trauma these refugees go through and how it greatly affects the children.
The storyline that I was most interested in was Raouf, who Zach and Chris got very close to. He and his family have been living in the refugee camp for two years now. Raouf struck my interest because he was just a young little boy who despite facing hardship tried to put on a brave face on and was all smiles. He had such a positive outlook, but you could see the fear in his eyes. You could tell that behind that smile was a little boy who was scared for the future. Zach and Chris asked him what he wanted to be when he grows up and he said ecstatically a doctor. Seeing Raouf trying to remain positive and not giving up hope reminded me of Susan Minot’s Thirty Girls because the girls part of the school who got abducted live on which their life after they are freed. These girls do not dwell on the past and learn to accept what happened. They like Raouf put a smile on their face to try to be okay with all the hardships faced, although, this smile is fake and an attempt to cover up their past. Raouf said with a grin that he doesn’t mind going through the years of schooling to get his degree. The problem was since living here at the refugee camp, Raouf has refused to go to school. He said he will wait to go back to school until he and his family leave the camp and go back to their home. The reality is that no one knows how long they will be living at these camps. Raouf and his family have already been here at the camp for two years, so the children should be going to school and learn to adjust to the new lifestyle. Zach and Chris tried to convince him to go back to school so he can eventually pursue his dream of becoming a doctor, but Raouf just cried refusing to go.
In an interview with Raouf’s father, he explained that in Syria, Raouf’s school had been bombed. He said, “You are opening up old wounds.” What Raouf’s dad said was very powerful and gave the filmmakers insight as to why Raouf refused to go to school. Zach and Chris eventually could talk Raouf through it and helped him get back to school. They walked him to school and soon Raouf loved school again.
Overall I thought the movie was very informative and interesting. It was a real eye opener as to how these refugees must adjust to their new lifestyle at these camps. What I took away the most from the was the discussion after the movie. People from a local refugee resettlement center explained to us more about the refugee situation. I as well as my peers around me were shocked when we heard from a local hear how much security these refugees must go through to come into the country. Refugees attempting to enter our country must go through at least seventeen different levels of security which is way more than any student studying abroad or immigrant goes through. This can relate to the text we read Teaching my Mother how to Give Birth by Warsan Shire. Both the text and event touch upon the subject of Refugees. In the movie, the whole focus is on the Syrian refugees living and creating a new life at the camp site. In Shire’s text, she mentions refugees when she says “no one leaves home, unless home is the mouth of the shark.” In that quote she is trying to emphasize how these refugees aren’t willingly leaving home and how they are basically forced to leave what they once called their home because their safety is in danger by staying there. The events main focus was on Syrian Refugees. In the text, Shire also talk about Refugees. In the preface, it says, “Here is a poet who explores how the victims of civil war can end up as refugees.” Salam Neighbor was truly an interesting video and I am glad I had this opportunity to watch this film.