Stranger in Paradise

Category |Current Affairs, Justice, Migration, Politics, Social Issues
Year | 2016
Country | The Netherlands
Running time | 72’
Format | HD
Production | Zeppers Film &TV
Director | Guido Hendrikx

In a classroom in Sicily, just inside the walls of Fortress Europe, recently arrived refugees receive lessons from a teacher (Valentijn Dhaenens) who has some rather unbalanced traits. One moment he mercilessly rejects the refugees – the next, mollifyingly, he embraces them. Operating at the intersection of documentary and fiction, Stranger in Paradise investigates the power relations between Europe and refugees.

Europe is represented by a teacher who drags his class of refugees down into his despair. A plea that borders on the immoral; a welcome charged with a guilt complex; and the compromise between these, made policy: Stranger in Paradise is an unflinching film essay on the mechanisms through which Europe tackles the refugees’ desire for happiness.

Director's statement : GUIDO HENDRIKX

Guido Hendrikx

Guido Hendrikx
Director’s Statement

“I tried to look down on the Earth from above. Contemplatively, and far removed from moral judgements. It started in May 2013, with a visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa. There, I met some of the migrants who have landed up there, their hopeful dreams for the future seeming to clash with a Europe that has little to offer them. I was struck by the power relations: how those with happiness treat the desire for happiness in others.

The contours for this film that formed them have changed little since. I wanted to make the power relationship I observed from a distance (and then later, during the research phase, up close) not so much visible, as feelable. For me, film is war with the viewer. Once I had become aware of the moral implications, I obsessively forced myself to depict reality as accurately as possible. Perhaps this is why it became an absurd film..

There were many exceptional moments during the shooting period. When, after a long conversation with a man from Mali, I asked him how he saw Europe: after a brief hesitation he replied, ‘I can only really say something about myself.’ He refused to give an opinion on Europe. Looking at the film now – it is a snapshot – what I see is the desire for happiness of these others getting dashed against waves of European self-satisfaction and self-interest.”.

Guido Hendrikx, Amsterdam, October 2016