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This started out as a post about two movies — about refugees– but talking about movies before actualities seemed just short of obscene. So

Much more has been written and said about desperate people leaving home with little more than hope and trust in strangers than I could ever add to.  On the whole, it seems people along the refugee trails are acting with kindness while their governments are stringing barbed wire and buying more billy-clubs.

There are at least three related problems.  The first is to help those now on the road and those recently arrived in temporary homes. Helping involves space and money.  Who will take them? How will it be decided — what voice will the actual families and individuals have? Where will the money come from – for hosting communities, for the refugees themselves, for training and placement, for larger school sizes?

The third, and so far unsolvable problem, is how to make flight less necessary How to stop the brutality in Syria, in Libya, in Eritrea, Somalia, Nigeria not to mention the violence in Central America sending terrified people north to Mexico or the United States. Some governments are doing better at pushing for solutions than others. Citizen groups pressuring for citizen solutions are not widely heard from as yet

Refugees Syria Numbers

Money is the easiest, which is not to say it is easy.  Everyday we are asked to send money here or send money there — all good causes.  In the last few days Google says it raised €10 million for the current emergency.  They aren’t matching anymore but suggest these “partners.” Click on any. I’m doing a monthly contribution to Doctors Without Borders….

Charity Doctors Without Borders Charity IRC

Charity Save the ChildrenCharity UNHCR

 

 

 

 

According to Vox news, the U.S. has pledged $500 million for the emergency.  Seems like a lot. But, what is it as a percentage of GDP? Compared to similar ratios of the European Union, Saudi Arabia, Australia?  A schema of ability to help based on national income, and perhaps on existing population, would at least provide a way to sketch out shared burdens. Leaving aside, at first draft, responsibility for the crisis, though certainly the amount the U.S., the U.K and now Saudi Arabia have spent on armaments used in the refugee place of origins ought to weigh heavily.

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movies Last ChanceEven knowing, perhaps because of knowing, the size of the disaster, connecting to it in a personal way is difficult.  I thought of this last night when by chance I watched Last Chance, a 1945 movie by Leopold Lindtberg, a German-Swiss director. It begins in Italy, early summer 1943.  News of the Allied landings in Sicily and Calabria is sputtering out on old radios.  A Brit and an American, escaped soldiers from a Nazi prison train, appear in town and are sheltered by a few citizens.  They begin to make their way to Switzerland by boat when news of an Armistice arrives.  Mussolini has been arrested. A new, still fascist, government is put in place, charged with withdrawing Italy from the war. Celebration is immediate, and premature.  Germany will have none of the capitulation by the new government and troops march in to occupy. [This is all true to history.]

Celebrants begin to leave the towns.  A fascist supporter who had jumped to support the Allies, jumps back.  Names are named. The two soldiers, joined by a British Major, plan to make a dash for the border to rejoin their armed forces.  When the fate of the desperate refugees, with children, and elderly, carrying suitcases, little food and a few precious objects, becomes clear to them they decide to lead them across a snowy Alpine pass. Intercepted by a German ski-patrol several die.  On Swiss territory the officer in charge threatens to send them back — as not being proper refugees.

A familiar story.

Movies Journey of HopeA more recent film, in almost exactly similar Alpine snow fury is Journey of Hope, a 1991 Swiss production with Turkish actors. Although the migrants are more of the economic refugees than of war, the desperation felt and challenges faced are similarly heartbreaking.

I bring movies up because, however well written news stories are, there is something about a well done movie that gets past the necessary barriers we erect to bounce off news of others’ woes.  These are only two, of course.  The copy of Last Chance, available on Amazon streaming is pretty bad but besides being a powerful reminder of the last European refugee crisis, the period details and interesting tri-lingual (at least) script add to reasons to watch it.  Journey of Hope is excellently done, and harrowing. It won Best Foreign Film at the 1991 Academy Awards, available at Netflix.

It is interesting to do a search at IMDB for “refugee” movies.  Many more are found than I would have expected, though many are not germane to the issues at hand.

This PDF document with many movie titles about refugees from the Information Center for Asylum and Refugees in the U.K., from 2005, is extremely interesting. From full length features by well known directors to fifteen minute shorts by refugees themselves, there is much to be taken in.  Not that anyone should sit around and watch movies instead of lending a hand in the current crisis but as motivators and perhaps as festival fundraisers it’s a good place to begin.