“Lost Whispers in the Distance” explores refugee misery in Europe 

September 20, 2021 - 19:4

TEHRAN – In his latest documentary “Lost Whispers in the Distance” Budapest-based Iranian filmmaker Mansur Foruzesh has turned the spotlight on the hard lives of refugees in Europe, particularly those who are Iranians.

To make this documentary, which was financed by the Sureh Documentary Film Center of the Art Bureau of the Islamic Ideology Dissemination Organization, Foruzesh had to negotiate with 15 countries, and only one—Serbia—allowed him to visit a refugee camp located in the northwestern city of Šid.

“The atmosphere within the camp was like something from fifty or sixty years ago; it did not have much in the way of facilities. Over the three weeks I spent making the film there, seven refugees died,” Foruzesh said in a meeting held at the Mehr News Agency in Tehran on Saturday to promote his film.

He said that one of the refugees was electrocuted while hiding himself under a train enroute to Serbia, while another Iranian refugee had frozen to death while attempting to walk to Europe in the harsh winter cold.

“The conditions were much worse in an Afghan refugee camp. Just as we arrived at the camp, one of the refugees beheaded another. Nerve-racking tension totally dominated the atmosphere of the camp, however, in ‘Lost Whispers in the Distance’, I avoided any prejudice and I did not want to convince someone to do something,” he added.

Foruzesh said that opportunities to solve problems are missed in Iran due to the attitudes of officials to politicize issues.

“We are faced with barriers when we make a film. They tell us, ‘You are not allowed to cross these barriers. Consequently, the film is limited in scope and only a small segment of a formidable issue can be examined. Meanwhile, our society has shown a great capability for understanding, and we live in an era in which we should respect critical perspectives,” he noted.

Foruzesh has asked the Art Bureau to provide some arrangements for relevant officials to watch the documentary.

“I have repeatedly requested the officials to demonstrate concern over the refugee issue and increase their knowledge about the problem,” he said.

“There should be a strong collective will to tackle the issue and find a solution. It’s not my duty as a filmmaker to offer a solution to the issue; I’m not a social reformist. I’ve simply raised the issue of refugees with people,” added Foruzesh, who is also the director of the short dramas “When I Killed the Cat” and “A Few Knots Away”.

Former Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamidreza Asefi, who also served as Iran’s ambassador to the U.A.E., Germany and France, also attended the meeting.

In his speech, he pointed to the difference between the meanings of the words “refugee” and “immigrant.”

“There are numerous Iranian people living abroad as immigrants, many of whom are the honor of our country. There are numerous Iranian physicians, businessmen and students who have chosen to live abroad,” he said.

“Although we would prefer that they live in Iran, they nevertheless have chosen to live outside the country, and hence, they are not refugees,” he noted.

Asefi listed high unemployment, higher cost of living and discrimination in Iran as factors that cause people to leave their homeland. However, he noted that many of the people who immigrate find the destination country to be drastically different from “the dreamland” they had anticipated in their imaginations.
Producer Seyyed Mohammad-Mehdi Dezfuli said, “Due to the higher cost of living in the country, many Iranian people leave their homeland and sometimes they fail to find their dreamland or live in conditions much worse than those that they had experienced in Iran.”     

He expressed his hope that more films would be produced about refugee life to raise people’s awareness of the issue.   

Photo: Filmmaker Mansur Foruzesh autographs a poster for “Lost Whispers in the Distance” in a meeting held in Tehran on September 18, 2021 to promote the documentary. (Mehr/Ali Haddadi-Asl)


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