The Talent Dove of the Sparkasse Leipzig Media Foundation, the top prize in the Young Cinema Competition, went to Kaveh Bakhtiari for the Swiss-French production L’Escale (Stop-Over). The prize money of €10,000 is intended to serve as seed funding for the Iranian-born director’s next documentary project. You can immediately feel the Iranian realism, and that is strange because this time it's a documentary.
When I saw the documentary at DOK Leipzig I had the feeling that I discovered something very special. A film set in Athens, showing what is going on with irregular immigrants. It gives a human face to what we normally regard as mere statistics.
Kaveh Bakhtiari spends a year in a flat shared by irregular immigrants in Athens. Along with him are his cousin and others who are stuck in Athens, hoping to find a way to move on to Germany, Norway, or any other European country where they can find a job and survive. The filmmaker follows them in Athens and the result is a poignant, poetic film.
Greece's geographical location and extensive, island-fringed coastlines have long made it a natural stopping-point for people from the Middle East seeking better opportunities elsewhere, with consequences that have become a major domestic political concern in the country over the last few years. This wider picture isn't part of Bakhtiari's remit - instead, his reportage examines the human cost of the situation. Sequences in Amir's unofficial guest-house alternate with external footage in which Bakhtiari accompanies Mohsen and company on their forays into the city, where they're in constant fear of attracting official attention. Through the film you get to know another face of Athens.
Claas Danielsen, DOK Leipzig director, described the film in his opening talk last week in Leipzig:
"And those who see the young Iranians in Kaveh Bakhtiari's film Stop-Over while they desperately risk their lives to arrive in the West, next time they see images of irregular immigrants in the high-security borders of Europe they won't be able to look indifferently the other way."
I myself will never forget the curtain of this small apartment. This image haunts me every time I pass by a basement in Athens.
The film is this year's CineDoc premiere on October 8 2014, 20.00 at the French Institute in Athens (31, Sina Str.).
The film will be followed by a discussion led by journalist Maria Psara, a Migrant Kitchen event by Culinary Backstreets Athens and Give Hope Charity Foundation, and live music from the Eastern-Mediterranean region by Michalis Klapakis and his group Ta Daktyla tis Ekatis.