by Kirsty Jones
Having to undertake a journey seeking refuge over 2,000 miles away is a horrifying prospect. Unfortunately, for those living in war-torn countries, fleeing can be the only, desperate option to escape becoming a fatality of conflict. We’ve been afforded insight into such migrations thanks to the reporters and documentarians who are willing to face the disturbing reality in person. Orban Wallace is one of those documentarians and with Another News Story he shares all the key events from an incoming influx of Syrian Refugees to Europe. What makes Wallace’s debut feature so unique is that it’s focus is widened to include the journalists that are following the story and reporting back.
There’s an unease amongst some the reporters when the camera is turned on them; this isn’t misplaced – I wouldn’t want to be shown running towards a landed boat of refugees, not with aid but with a camera. And it’s the addition of these bodies, these camera-wielding figures, that add to the heartbreak felt while watching. Having seen countless news reports of refugees risking their lives to reach the shores of another country, you feel helpless, a feeling that is reinforced by the cameras’ tight focus on those people – they’re on their own isolated by circumstance and at the mercy of the elements and sometimes law enforcement. But in this wider picture, you realise they’re not on their own; they’re surrounded by people. The catch is, those people are there to capture footage of their struggle, not help them through it. Personally, I just can’t imagine running to take a picture of a crying child, especially when that child hasn’t eaten for two days, has lost a parent and sibling, and doesn’t understand what is happening. This is the job of the foreign correspondent; which requires a certain amount of detachment to stay sane. However, phrases such as ‘OK, that’s a wrap, let’s get some dinner’ appear abhorrent against the backdrop of a refugee camp.
While in the opening sequences of the film, there’s a distinct whiff of exploitation; the refugees aren’t completely oblivious to what the presence of reporters means. Those who give interviews know they’ll end up on international news, and they’re happy to share their stories, wanting it to be seen by westerners who might sympathise with their situation. However, as they get closer to their destination, there’s a realisation that their presence is on every political agenda and worse, there is no control over how they are represented to the masses.
Being completely blindsided by the message put across through the filmmaking, it’s difficult to look at this film with a critical eye. I will put that down to Wallace’s skill; my focus remains where the filmmaker wants it to be throughout. Impeccable sound design only adds to the films’ credibility and the editing successfully pulls together a gripping juxtaposition of characters from each side of the camera. Despite the upsetting subject, there’s a warmth in Wallace’s filmmaking, sometimes with reporters but certainly with the refugees, which is surely down to Wallace’s approach. He shares extremely difficult parts of the trek; something no other reporter seems prepared to do, and with that, shows solidarity with the people he’s become acquainted with.
The story of a refugee should never become less shocking. However, as this film reflects, we the viewers are quick to lose interest, or worse, put judgement and blame on the faces we see on screen. Those desperate to feel an ounce of the security we sit in, in our minds, become the villains and terrorists who are out to exploit us or hurt us. The truth that Another News Story reveals, is that the reporters are there to feed our hunger for headlines, when we’re tired of this crisis, they’ll be on the road to the next.