Nominated for: Best UK Feature
The refugee crisis of 2015 is something that shocked us all, with immigrants from Afghanistan, Iran and Syria attempting to escape the war that has devastated their countries in order to start afresh in Europe. Richard Wyllie directs a fascinating insight into only five days of a difficult ordeal, enough footage to question how we can help people forced to leave their homes.
The structure of Five Days On Lesvos is straightforward: the film is split into five separate segments, each part highlighting the incredible amount of problems that arise each day. This also allowed the director to make some artistic choices. Most importantly, each part began by interviewing Eric Kempson, an ex-pat whose desire to help others out of his own free will was truly humbling. In all but the last part, Eric is filmed looking out to sea with his binoculars, as he documents where he believes each fortunate rubber dingy has come from by the lifejackets that they are wearing. Footage of the surviving immigrants leaping on to the beach at Lesvos hugging, singing and celebrating is truly touching; it is just unfortunate to know that that is only the start of a perilous journey for them and their families to seek asylum.
“not all doom and gloom, but certainly harrowing”
The documentary contained very few scenes of distressing imagery, instead focusing on the feature’s ‘good Samaritans’ such as Eric, as well as a Dutch student, who were doing their upmost despite the country being fairly unhelpful in the wake of the influx of immigrants. There was some shocking archive footage, including some police brutality in Europe and a man wrestling a woman and child onto train tracks which was hard to digest, but necessary in outlining the true horror of what those that survive the journey to Europe still have to endure. There are of course countless others that didn’t make it.
Most affecting I feel was that, on the first day, some graffiti showed ‘IMMIGRANTS WELCOME’, which two days later was altered to a whole new message scratched onto a car: ‘FUCK IMMIGRANTS’. When Eric recounts the fact that he was deemed a criminal for ‘ruining Lesvos’ within the five days of filming due to his aid, the whole audience was pleased with his resilience to carry on, but shocked at the attitude of the majority. Elsewhere, a group of six Afghan refugees sharing two tents between them, were a beacon of hope. One, who jokingly talked about his clothing’s colour co-ordination was an admirable figure, and had the audience laughing with him at his fantastically positive mentality. He tells the cameras that “our hearts are crying, but we are smiling”. That individual, we learn at the end of the film, is attempting to gain asylum in Sweden.
So, Five Days On Lesvos was not all doom and gloom, but certainly harrowing at showing the extent to which these people desperately need assistance that is not being handled to them very readily. The fact that this was only a snapshot documentary, only a few days long, is telling, and possibly the most effective way of highlighting the urgency for aid. It is a must-watch after one of the most important global events of last year.
Image: Richard Wyllie