For millennia, European borders have wrought havoc on countless lives, whether it be through war, imperialism or a toxic mixture of both. In giving its subjects the chance to speak for themselves, Random walks acts a quiet condemnation of the very concept of borders. Borbála Tompa’s animated documentary interviews five immigrants in Budapest, two of whom are refugees.
The inevitable abstraction of animation, much like Aardman’s Creature Comforts, emphasises the humanity of the subjects. The camera can illuminate but it can also be invasive, so its absence is not missed, and allows the interviewees to be more honest in their responses.
The ubiquity of lines in the background, whether they be that of trees or the edges of tiles, resemble prison bars and chain fences. They quietly evoke the violence inflicted by borders, and the psychic toll it takes on the subjects. One interviewee describes how the Debrecen Refugee Camp made him “emotionally dead”. By placing these lines in mundane settings like a supermarket, the film suggests that the injustice of these camps and detention centres is a natural outgrowth of a society where immigrants are viewed with disdain.
The final image of the short takes a symbolic turn as one of the interviewees falls into a Tesco shopping trolley alongside common products. It is an evocative image, conveying the persistent dehumanisation of vulnerable people in a capitalist society.
This last point is all the more salient here in Britain where the privately-owned Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre continues to operate, despite its clear violation of human rights. Random walks is a small but needed statement on the need to remove borders, and to dismantle the sinister institutions that prop them up.
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DIRECTOR: Borbála Tompa
SYNOPSIS: We follow the story of five immigrants in Budapest, two of whom still live here as refugees. We touch upon various levels of their life – from the banal to the serious.