The mass wave of refugees fleeing the Middle East for countries like Germany is unlike any diaspora in living memory; not just in its scale but in the way it is being documented. We’re all used to seeing news footage of overfilled dinghies washing onto Greek shores or cramped trains pulling into German stations, but the proliferation of smartphones means that many refugees are documenting their own perilous routes into Europe.
In #MyEscape, Elke Sasse plots the course of several refugees from Afghanistan, Syria and Eritrea as they’re smuggled over border after border, never knowing whether they will be allowed to continue or even if they will survive. Sasse’s controlled and calm interviews with the refugees at the end of their journey provides a marked contrast with the roughness of their own footage, caught on iPhones and digital cameras, and skilfully edited to make a coherent and gripping narrative.
The idea of testimony is at the forefront here. Where Sasse can’t use refugee-shot footage, she asks them to sketch their experiences from memory, and the desire not to put any words in their mouths at all is admirable. On the other hand there’s a feeling that, in her desire to draw attention to the issue, Sasse may have overstuffed the film. There are around ten different stories being juggled here, and a lean 90-minute runtime means they can become muddled; taking fewer stories and giving each one room to breathe might have made for a more satisfying whole.
#MyEscape is a fascinating piece of citizen journalism; an eye-opening look into the appalling reality of the current refugee crises across the world, and a reminder that those affected by it are not just a faceless swarm to be feared but a group of incredibly courageous human beings.
DIRECTOR: Elke Sasse
SYNOPSIS: #MyEscape shows the journey that refugees from Afghanistan, Syria and Eritrea chose to undergo, as the circumstances in their home-countries became increasingly unliveable, by using footage which has been shot by the refugees themselves.