Coming to Pivot TV as part of its Stand Up For Justice programming series tonight, Monday, January 18: SALAM NEIGHBOR
Zach Ingrasci and Chris Temple’s attempt to call attention to the Syrian refugee crisis made its world premiere at AFI Docs last Summer. It also screened at Poland’s Watch Docs, CPH:DOX, and Aruba, among other events.
Responding to the plight of Syrian refugees in Jordan, the young filmmakers set out to share the situation with Western audiences. Unfortunately, the approach they decide to take is to make a film about themselves trying to share the plight of the refugees, rather than actually allowing Syrians to share their plight. Gaining permission from the UN, they register as refugees at the Za’atari displacement camp in order to live among actual displaced Syrians for a month and replicate their experiences. After one night, however, they’re told it’s too dangerous for two Americans to live there, and they must instead stay in a nearby town. Continuing with their project in a less immersive form, they fleetingly profile a handful of residents, but still keep themselves at its center, and in the process convey their experiences and feelings of being at Za’atari more than those of the Syrians who were forced there. While no doubt well-meaning, Ingrasci and Temple’s filmmaking approach unfortunately smacks of unconscious, unexamined privilege, and loses sight of its ostensible goals.