Hello loyal readers. No, I didn’t fall off the face of the Earth, although it was a possible conclusion considering my last post was about 2 years ago. Let me tell you what has happened:
- I started working at a global architecture firm as their Marketing and Business Development Director
- One year later, as my personal life was falling apart, I decided to do something crazy and leave New York and film a documentary. On refugees.
So now, I’m here, in Paris. The other New York. It’s funny, I’ve checked out all the co-working places, and there are only English speakers there. Either the French work from home, they don’t work, or they’re working in actual offices, on streets like Boulevard Malesherbes, where the floors are blonde, herringbone wood, and the entrances have grand sweeping staircases leading you up to their door.
This is an unusual post, because it’s the one where I’m bridging the 2-year long gap of my absence with my present situation in Paris. It’s taken me a while to get used to Paris, and I know that’s a strange thing to say, because who wouldn’t want to be here? But, I didn’t plan on being here for so long, and so it’s taken a while to adjust. Now that I’m finally getting comfortable with all the quartiers and have actual, local cafes where I know the baristas, and have joined a workout group each week, it will soon be time to go back home. I would say, “it will be time to go back to reality” but I’ve had enough reality here in France, that I would have to call it something else. More like, resuming the responsibilities I left on hold, and attempt to return to a level of normalcy which includes a sense of security and grounding. Right now, I’m a bit of a nomad, living out of my suitcase, and boy will I be happy to have shelves and more clothing options! In the meantime, this is an experience you can only have when you’re single and have no children. Basically, this is the best time for me to be here.
I have been spending the last few months sorting through all the footage I gathered from filming last year in Dunkerque and Calais, in order to bring out the most powerful narrative. The story I am trying to tell, is about the unaccompanied minors (under 18) who traveled on their own to Europe, only to find their greatest hurdle to be the North of France. Nearly everyone I met was in France only to try and cross the English Channel into the UK.
“What is your dream?”
With my camera in hand, I asked many people this question for my trailer. Without any prompts, they each said the same thing:
“My dream is to go to the UK”.
When I would recount this to my friends, they would all ask me “but why England? What’s so special over there? Don’t they know that it would be better for them in France?”
Well, the answer is complicated, but it has a lot to do with misinformation, misperception (due to their experiences in the North of France), language, and family (who had established themselves in England during an earlier immigration wave). The misinformation part is due mostly to social media, perpetuating a false sense of time and happiness once they arrive in Europe. No one wants to put a photo of themselves looking miserable on Facebook. No one wants to show their parents that their financial sacrifice led their kids to be living in sub-human conditions in the continent they believed would honor human rights.
And it is a country built on upholding human rights, but the official and unofficial refugee camps in the North are not exactly France. One young man from Iraq once told me:
“I can go to France, and be a tourist, visit the country… but here, here it’s not France.”
The global refugee crisis is a complicated issue, with many layers and dimensions of understanding. Even though I spent most of last year within that world, there is still so much I don’t know and am still learning.
It’s taken a while, but I am now regaining my creative voice, and starting to write again. There are so many exhibitions going on in Paris right now, that there will be plenty from this ‘moveable feast’ for you to sink your teeth into. Before I conclude my come-back post– as conclude it I must, because now that I’ve found my voice, I could really go on forever– I want to leave you with this:
May 6th was the anniversary of the opening of the Channel Tunnel, which connects France to England. My whole film is about these 33km that divide the two countries, and the span of surreal time it takes a person to cross a border into a different reality. In 1994, I’m sure the Queen of England never thought that this great engineering feat -one of the greatest of the 20th century- would end up being one of the reasons that drove people to vote for Brexit in 2016.
More on this later. In the meantime… hello again.