THE ALEPPO ROOM
The Aleppo Room takes place in Berlin, Germany and focuses on a small group of guides most of who have been displaced from Syria. The three Syrian women and one Iraqi man featured here are part of "Multaka." The aim of Multaka is to provide museum tours free of charge to recently arrived refugees. These museum tours generally take place in the Museum for Islamic Art (which is located inside the Pergamon Museum) and the German History Museum.
The guides Zoya, Salma, Rita and Hussam discuss artifacts and art objects not simply based on factual knowledge. Instead, they try to explain why their chosen objects matter to them, how they relate to these objects on a personal, more intimate level and how the current situation of many refugees is echoed in these art objects.
The Aleppo Room was released in September 2017.
When I started working on Rutland in October 2016, I initially planned that it would be a companion piece to my previous experimental film "Refuge" (about the refugee crisis in Germany). But everything changed with the US presidential election.
Rutland and a majority of its community were preparing for the arrival of 100 Syrian and Iraqi refugees per year. Only two Syrian families made it to Rutland two days before the inauguration in January 2017. When President Trump signed his executive order to temporarily bar refugees, immigrants and visa holders from 7 predominantly Muslim countries (and indefinitely suspending the Syrian refugee program), Rutland found itself in a situation that some people had been anxious about since the election: what if the long-awaited refugees do not arrive in the end?
This project is not just about Rutland and its people. It is also an attempt to understand how the United States have changed since the election of Donald J. Trump.
Rutland is expected to be released in December 2017.
The footage for the video was shot in May and June of 2016 while I was at the artist residency Die Kolonie in Worpswede, Germany. During that time, I was meeting with refugees most of who had arrived in Germany in October and November 2015. In addition, I met with various organizations, volunteers and activists who are trying to ease the many difficulties these newly arrived people experience on a daily basis.
During meetings with people for this project, no conversations were recorded in audio or video. I took notes during off-camera interviews, but the main goal was to allow each individual to react to my and the camera's presence without having to formulate a response or a particular narrative. The material presented in this trailer is a testimony to each and every person I met on my way and their long, frustrating, promising but always hopeful path to a new life in a foreign country.
Because of the partly abstract nature of the footage, the complicated matter at hand and in the absence of the interviewee's spoken word, I decided to collaborate with sound artist Ezra Teboul. This collaborative project is an audio-visual response to one of the most challenging crises of our times which threatens nations, individuals and our empathy towards those displaced.
Refuge premiered at the Los Angeles Underground Film Forum in October 2016.