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Stranger in Paradise
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
“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