"I wouldn't be Sham, if i didn't succeed in Germany" : A review of '8 Borders,
An inspiring film from the Berlin Human Rights Film Festival about a strong Syrian mother determined to find a better life for her children, '8 Borders 8 Days' documents the journey of Sham and her two children, Eylan ("Lulu") and Yaman, from Damascus all the way to Berlin.
(From left) Lulu, Sham and Yaman - image via 8 Borders 8 Days official website
Sham's flight story begins in Beirut, Lebanon, where Sham waits for 16 months in the hopes of being granted a Visa to go to the U.S. After receiving no response, and experiencing problems with her sponsor (a requirement for every refugee Lebanon post 2015), she escapes with her children to Istanbul.
Sham decides she must find a man to protect her and her children during the dangerous journey, so she meets Marwan, who shares the rest of the journey with them. Next comes the terrifying sea journey to the island of Lesbos, Greece. Neither Sham nor her children no how to swim. The children describe the terrifying sea voyage in the opening scenes of the film.
“The water came up to here”, explains Lulu, demonstrating the water level coming up to her chest. “Everybody was helping to bail water out of the boat – even one man took his shoe off!”
After Lesbos, they get another ferry to the mainland of Greece (“Will the boat capsize?” asks one of the children). Then, a convoluted road voyage begins using a mixture of public transport. The weather during this part of the journey is rainy. Babies are wrapped in plastic sheets to get dry, and shoes and socks are dried on the fire at night. In one scene, they have just got off a bus, and are stranded by the side of the road. There is only one restaurant, but the owner (“He was a very bad man”) wouldn’t let them enter. Footage showed him locking the door with children on the outside pressing their faces against the glass.
Next, the family travel through Macedonia and Serbia, before arriving at the border of Hungary. One of the scariest moments, aside from the sea voyage, is when Hungarian police forces refuse to let the crowd of refugees through the bridge. They stop the crowd with plastic shields, beating anybody with batons that tries to get through. The crowd was trying to cross a bridge, with the police barricading of it; this resulted in a bottleneck. Desperate crowds pushed against the police, and children screamed in fear as they were crushed by the crowds. Eventually, the police let through the women and children. One woman was so frightened that it looked as if she was hyperventilating. She sobbed in terror as she clung on to her husband, burying her face in his shoulder.
Finally, the family reach Budapest. From there, they take the train and bus through the Czech Republic, and finally reach Berlin!
The rest of the film is a confusing array of reception centres and official buildings. Sham and her family are forced to move shelters a lot, staying in an array of tiny rooms with metal beds and lockers, and harsh lighting. Sham cannot work for the first year because she has to wait for her residency permit, so can do nothing except wait. However, Sham never gives up.
The end of the film shows Sham sitting on a swing, holding her stomach – she is now pregnant! Marwan has left by this point, “In the end, Marwan was not somebody I could rely on” says Sham. But, Sham doesn’t need a man to survive. She has her children, her hopes for the future, and she knows she will be okay: "I wouldn't be Sham, if i didn't succeed in Germany."
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