IN BETWEEN by Marit van der Heijden

Film: In Between
Year of recording: 2019
Place of recording: The Netherlands

Directed by Marit van der Heijden
Realised in collaboration with Jimmy Kegel and Marlieke Moerman Director of Photography: David van der Drift
Sound Design: Mike van Creij (Elephant Ears)
Colour Grading: Erik Demeris (Filmmore Amsterdam)

In 2019 I got in touch with several people who had arrived to the Netherlands from Syria and Iran. Their stories touched me and left a lasting impression on me. In In Between Adib, Kamiya, Alaa and Batoul share their story, discussing how it feels to stand in between the fears of people on either side of political polarisation.

When the refugee crisis happened, I was shocked with the amount of hatred and aggression projected onto refugees seeking shelter in the Netherlands. These people who have had to leave behind their lives to the point of no return, with uncertainty for their future and hopes to remain in this country, were seen as a threat and dehumanised by the media. Many stereotypes were portrayed onto refugees, “poor, broken, mentally ill or traumatised” as mentioned in the film by Adib. But what I found especially sad was when Kamiya told me she is scared to laugh as she is worried people will say that “refugees are happy people so they don’t have any problems and they send us back”.

I am very grateful that Adib, Kamiya, Alaa and Batoul allowed me to interview them about their experience once arriving to the Netherlands, as well as several Dutch citizens who identify with either “left” or “right” wing politics. We wanted to understand what the fear or refugees as well as the fear for polarisation does with the people standing in between all of this. These mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and daughters deserve to feel safe. I decided to tell this story by visualising the fears that are being projected onto refugees and literally projecting them onto objects within the home of Alaa and Batoul. This symbolises how it impacts the feeling of safety, even inside one’s home.

In the film, imagery of a disturbed flock of birds in the sky, crashing waves in the ocean, memories from war and newspaper prints are projected onto a comforting cup of tea, a dinner table or the patterns of a cozy rug. Through this documentary I wanted to address how the media dehumanises refugees and takes away their identity. Initially in the film you only see silhouettes, but throughout the film you get to know them and look them straight in the eyes. We recorded these images together with Alaa and Batoul who were kind enough to welcome us into their house, after which we shared a delicious Syrian meal.

I am grateful that this documentary has been well received. It was presented at the SIETAR Europa Virtual Institute where I was invited to join a panel discussion on anti-racism, inclusion and intersectionality, to discuss the opportunities of artistic research and storytelling to move towards a more inclusive future. We spoke about the use of artistic methods to create more cohesion in society. This power to connect and humanise people is especially important in this time of divide. I personally believe strongly in the power of stories to create social change and move the narratives in society beyond the Self and Other. It is a powerful tool to get to know each other, break stereotypes and tell the human story that is underneath.

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