04/12/16 - A year ago today I flew to Beirut.
I went there to film a short reportage about Syrian refugees and their situation in the neighbouring country, Lebanon, where over 1.2 million of them strive to survive.
The video would help create awareness and would hopefully bring funds to pay for the education of dozens of children through a Chinese NGO.
Filming this was a challenge in many ways, as I had never shot video properly in the past and the workflow was very different to the one I was used to while taking still images. Besides that, the crude, harsh reality in which so many people are forced to live really saddened me. The conviction that what we were doing could aid their situation somehow, helped me to focus and to not get futilely angry about what I was witnessing.
I won’t have a go at the unfair origin of their misfortune, or at how greedy politicians, the arms industry and hidden agendas keep feeding from this inhumane spectacle. More than 500,000 people have been killed during this senseless 6-years-long war, and half of the population has been displaced out of their country… the thing is, it’s all numbers until you see them; people like you and me, once with a life like yours or mine, and then suddenly forced to flee from war and mayhem. From annihilation.
Everyone had horror stories that should be heard, shared and spread. Front page material in every refugee camp’s tent. There were too many to count or that I would willingly want to remember. Soul wrenching tales of death, loss and desperation, and some of amazing feats that would surely provide an Oscar nomination to whomever would perform them on the big screen. But sadly this was not a movie and they were not wealthy actors, and as I type this their situation hasn’t changed course and hope has remained elusive.
It’s a strange feeling being there as a ‘reporter’ of sorts. It somehow takes you out of the equation of the unfolding drama that surrounds you. You are a voyeur, some sort of perverted peeping Tom who gets a slight high whenever you catch on camera a weeping face or a sordid story. It’s this predatory side of ‘journalism’ that I struggle to deal with. The search for grieve and tragedy to what effect? With what intent? And then there’s the beautification of it, framing and lighting subjects to create ever more powerful images… it makes you wonder.
I try to comfort myself by telling me that the video helped raise several thousand dollars to pay for the education of a bunch of children, and that they will hopefully stand a better chance pursuing a brighter future because of it. For better or for worse I am a part of this voracious wheel of visual creation and consumption that can’t stop spinning to recalibrate itself and rethink where is heading to. But sometimes one must do just that, even if it’s a hard stop.