Interviews

Bijlmerbajes Bios X IFFR: get to know the programme team

Bayan, Farah, Farhad, Razan and Somar fled from Syria and Iran, and have been living permanently in the Netherlands for a few years now. Talented filmmakers with a passion for cinema, who after a lot of hard work are well on the way to making it in the Dutch film industry. Solar World Cinema, the initiator of the Bijlmerbajes Bios project, asked the five recognised refugees to organise a monthly film screening in the ‘Lola Lik’ cultural hub, part of the former Bijlmerbajes prison in Amsterdam, where refugees have been housed since 2016. On Friday, 26 May, The Idol is on the programme, in cooperation with IFFR. This poignant, hopeful film by Palestinian-Dutch filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad tells the true story of Palestinian singer Mohammad Assaf, who by winning the Arab Idol talent contest in 2013 gave his homeland a rare taste of victory. Ahead of the film, there will be music and dance from Syria and Palestine.

Written by Cathelijne Beijn

The programming team

Bayan Khal Ehlayel (age 28)Bayan

Comes from Syria and has lived in the Netherlands for eighteen months.

“I have been interested in film, in the broadest possible sense, from a very early age. At present, I am producing a short documentary and preparing for a film course at Amsterdam University College. I am honoured to be part of the programming team for Solar World Cinema and Bijlmerbajes Bios . This programme allows me to do something for refugees, and for the local residents. The Idol appeals to the imaginations of both of these groups. The refugees will recognise a lot of their own culture, and speak Arabic. The Dutch can see a story told in a universal language about how it is to grow up in an area in conflict. The universal storyline is recognisable to everyone and easy to follow. It’s incredibly well done.”

Farah Shretah Kadro (age 28)Farah

Comes from Syria and Ukraine, has lived in the Netherlands for two years.

“’Farah’ means ‘joy’, and I always try to live up to my name. As a refugee, that’s not always easy. You arrive in a strange culture, with a strange language you don’t understand, and with which you can’t express yourself. This can make your world small, dark and lacking in direction. As an artist I have made documentaries, acted in films and I take part in improvised theatre: all with the aim of translating my vision and sensitivity into moving images. The language of art and cinema is universal and can overcome many restrictions. A film like The Idol shows that there is a future for everyone – even if you find yourself in strange surroundings. There is always hope, even when you experience great setbacks, created by circumstances you cannot control. I believe absolutely in this message.”

Farhad Vilkij (age 45)Farhad

Comes from Iran and has lived in the Netherlands for seven years.

“In Iran, I worked as a production designer on big films. I came up with sets and costumes and also worked on the art direction. When I arrived here, I could no longer carry on my profession, as I was totally unfamiliar with the Dutch culture in terms of clothing and styling. Nevertheless, I absolutely wanted to carry on working in film, and I re-trained as a director. I have now made two documentaries and I’m on the jury of the upcoming SCENECS International Debut Film Festival. If you believe in your talent and work hard, you can achieve whatever you want. This is a message we can give to the refugees here, who have it really hard, with The Idol. We as programmers of these film evenings have to take their situation into account. The films have to be understandable, not too light, but certainly not evoke any traumas. For a lot of people, The Idol will be very recognisable, and will give them strength.”

Razan Hassan (age 22)Razan

Comes from Syria and has lived in the Netherlands for two years.

“I want more than anything to show my vision and imagination to the world. Since I’ve been in the Netherlands, I’ve been talking to everyone about my work as a video artist and filmmaker. I’ve now made two short films and an installation, and my network here is growing quickly. I’ve got big dreams, and I’m doing everything I can to make them reality. In his film, Hany Abu-Assad shows beautifully how it is to have a dream in difficult circumstances, and how innocent children grow up in a war zone. I will always believe in my dream and in myself, however tough the circumstances may be. I hope that The Idol puts across this message of hope and trust.”

Somar Al Bish (age 35)Somar

Comes from Syria and has lived in the Netherlands for two and a half years.

“In Syria, I worked as a professional cameraman on short films and video clips, and I did a lot of commercial work. Luckily, I can carry on my profession here in the Netherlands, and I’ve been working for a month now with an international team on a pilot for a comedy film. I also volunteer at the EYE Filmmuseum archive, and I was on the jury of the Amsterdam One Minute Festival. Hany Abu-Assad’s film is accessible and easy to understand for people who have only recently arrived in the Netherlands. They will be able to identify with the story, which is mainly very happy. Everyone will go home with a good feeling.”

For more on The Idol, read and watch here.

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