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‘Those Who Feel the Fire Burning’ Documents Hopeful Refugee Journeys to Lands of Opportunity

'Those Who Feel the Fire Burning' Documents Hopeful Refugee Journeys to Lands of Opportunity

A real-life narrative that’s provided many-a-filmmaker with inspiration, many we’ve covered on this blog; most recently, Senegalese filmmaker Moussa Touré’s “La Pirogue” (“The Pirogue”): the potentially deadly journey by sea that countless refugees make to enter Europe, illegally by boats that can be small, light, flat-bottomed and only hold a few people at a time, and are certainly not meant for long distance travel. 

These men (typically) often have to save up money to pay for the ride, which can be pricey, all in an effort to seek better lives for themselves. Some don’t make it all the way to their destinations (the Red Cross estimates that as thousands of people die attempting to make these dangerous crossings each year. I recall reading a news item some time ago, on the discovery of a boat with the mummified bodies of 11 men, found 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean, just drifting. It is thought that workers originally boarded the vessel in Senegal.

And those who are lucky enough to make it are, especially in recent years, met with hostility by the locals in whatever country it is they arrive in. Often waiting for them, once they disembark, are officers of the law who pack the immigrants on to buses and transfer them to the courts, and then overloaded detention centers.

So it’s a really a matter of life and death, which, as noted, can provide for many compelling stories for filmmakers to tell, whether fiction or not, as is the case with director Morgan Knibbe’s feature documentary “Those Who Feel the Fire Burning,” which follows one of those little boats full of refugees, trying to make it to Europe, and the trials and tribulations that make their already rough journey even more torturous, as well as what kind of life awaits them on the other side. 

Here’s a breakdown: “The night is pitch-black, the sea stormy. Wild waves break on a little boat full of refugees, where a girl laments that she does not want to go to Europe. Suddenly an old man falls overboard. In vain he tries to grab the saving hands. Colored lightning flashes over a busy city seen from above. From that point on, the drowned man sees reality from another dimension. Unconventional and poetic in form, ‘Those Who Feel the Fire Burning’ documents a serious social problem: the hopeless situation of the refugees who actually manage to make the crossing alive. The seeking soul of the old man hurries along the southern European border and dwells on the many disillusioned people, observing them calmly and up close. They would seem to be in limbo just like him, waiting on the edge of a presumed paradise. He sees people on the street chased away like dogs, follows an illegal worker and a drug-addicted mother and slips inside packed shelters. The voices of all these people blend together with his, creating a patchwork of loving memories, dreams and desires.”

The film is currently touring the film festival circuit, and will next be screened at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, which runs from November 19 to 30.

Check out the trailer below:

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