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CPH:DOX review: The Connection of the Past and the Present

When 18-year-old Ibrahim appeared on the screen, he looked quiet and calm, with a rationality far beyond his age. His homesickness, missing Syria where he came from, accompanied with the sound of arriving refugees in the Tempelhof asylum centre and the hollow and grand music, suddenly brought a knot of the history to the light.


By Marion Chen



Tempelhof in Berlin was a central airport in Hitler’s time. Decades after the WWII,  the runways around the closed airport have become a beloved park with urban gardens. In 2015, it turned out to be an asylum centre for over 3000 asylum seekers.

The film director Karim Aïnouz lives very close to Tempelhof. It was something that happened very close in his neighbourhood that engaged him to catch this moment. His sense of film and observation with passion made his first documentary well illustrate this historical moment in Europe.

Cabinets were built up inside Tempelhof as the temporary rooms for asylum seekers. How would people cope with their living? How would people interacting with the local working staff? What did they expect when they were waiting and waiting? These were all the interesting points Karim would like to portray.

It was not easy to get permission to do shooting at the very beginning. Karim spent six months visiting and talking with people in Tempelhof and started to shoot after he gained the trust from the asylum seekers, as well as the working staff there.

A naturally born character
Ibrahim became the main character in the film through talking and getting to know Karim as a film maker. He wanted to present his story and feeling as an individual fleeing from his home because of the war.

It was a great match for both parties created a chance to collaborate. Karim was satisfied with Ibrahim’s acting, natural and expressive.

The scenario of the three-year life in Tempelhof with the change of the nature from spring to winter strongly expressed the feeling of homesickness from the bottom of Ibrahim’s heart.

Smoothly flowed on the screen was a powerful personal story, a portray with a full compassion and humane observation of the film director Karim.


The Connection of the Past and the Present
The music of the film was from Wagner, which makes the place, Tempelhof, feel not very real. “It would make the film more poetic in a place where past and present could collapse better,”says Karim.

Karim thinks that the music could help us to travel in time, and it also could help us to take this from cruel reality, to remind us of this place — what it was and what it is in the sense of a leisure space.

Wagner acts in the film as a connecting knot of a big picture of the history in the past, and the smallest details take stock of the European refugee crisis at present.

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