A Humanitarian Crisis
Four million Syrians have escaped war and we see by this that it is possible that we can be losing an entire generation of young people as well as destabilizing a region of the world and bringing about poverty and violence.
This documentary takes us into the world of refugees. Seven miles from war, 85,000 Syrians struggle to restart their lives inside Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp. For the first time in history, two filmmakers, Zach Ingrasci and Chris Temple, fully plant themselves in the camp, providing an intimate look at the world’s most dire humanitarian crisis.
We meet Um Ali, a woman struggling to overcome personal loss and cultural barriers and 10-year-old Raouf, whose trauma is hidden beneath his smile and we hear inspiring stories of individuals rallying, against all odds, to rebuild their lives and those of their neighbors. This crisis should challenge us to become global citizens and neighbors to those who are suffering.
When a truck pulls up to the Za’atari refugee camp, a place that is spread out across the Jordanian desert we see refugees carrying their bags of food rations, children playing in the sand. We also see Zach Ingrasci and Chris Temple, two young Americans pitching their tent and preparing to film their newest documentary, “Salam Neighbor.” Za’atari is the world’s second largest refugee camp and the filmmakers have decided to live there for one month with Syrian refugees.
We see Ingrasci and Temple collaborating with Mohab Khattab and Salam Darwaza, co-founders of 1001 MEDIA, a production company with roots in the United States and Bahrain that aims to tell stories about Arab communities. The four worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Jordanian government over a 10-month period. The film marks the first time the United Nations has allowed a group of filmmakers to be embedded in a refugee camp and officially registered with a tent.
What made these young filmmakers so interested in this topic was when they began asking questions about what it is like to leave one’s country and attempt to rebuild after all has been lost. For most of us, we only know what we see on the news and what we see on the news is there because it sells. This means we never get the complete picture from the media. Zach and Chris wanted to know more about the personal aspects of what was happening and what it was like for those fleeing from war.
We meet a 10-year-old Syrian boy who avoids school while struggling with severe shellshock, a grandmother who lost her sons in the war and now expresses her emotions by writing thoughts on her tent’s walls and weaving art out of old plastic bags, an international relief worker who advocates for women’s rights, a former university student and aspiring French teacher who now advocates for children’s education in the camp, and a single mother of three named Ghoussoon who lives outside Za’atari in the city of Mafraq.
The stories we see and hear makes us want to stop whatever we are doing and find some way to help these poor people. Refugee camps are not new to me—I saw them in Israel and I then felt connected to the refugees brings you on a heart throbbing/ tear jerking journey but there was nothing I could do. In the media refugees are seen more of a burden than a situation that must be fixed. Here we feel a connection with people hundreds and thousands of miles away.
By focusing on a few main characters, the documentary lets us develop a good sense of who these people are and realize that they are just like us. Unfortunately they had to deal with a terrible situation in their country. As we watch we get closer to the people we meet and feel what they feel as best we can from afar.
The Syrians are a resilient people who have literally created “something out of nothing. They loving and generous people and take care of Chris and Zach as if they were their own sons. This is film that will stay with you and hopefully move you enough to make you want to do more to help our global neighbors.