By Mónica Delgado

Only in rare occasions does a film stir up the politic roots of migration such as Stranger in Paradise does, and it does that by staging a bureaucratic process with an actor simulating to be a teacher or employee of the state in three different moments, while real refugees deal with a process to get a Dutch residency.

Young filmmaker Guido Hendrikx comes up with a mechanism between reality and fiction to get different visions from the migrants, confronted with three different arguments that reflect the migratory policies applied in different European countries. A group of migrants enters a room where a teacher waits to “educate” them about the migrants situation, an education that includes questions such as “what do you know about Europe? What kind of a job would you do here? Why did you left your country of origin? This actor presents three ways of understanding migration, which allows evaluating the relations among all the participants: first, a far right argument, that of the people whose economy seems to be vulnerable against the wave of refugees, then, an explanation from the utopic left, thought from a point of view of social welfare and common wellness, and finally an strictly bureaucratic one, mechanic and fulminant, that reflects the current state of affairs.

The originality of Stranger in Paradise lies in the way that Hendrikx sorts his film: a prologue as a way of reflection that utilizes fast editing and footage to show a diagnosis of world current state. A narrator shows the contradictions of a world divided in two poles, between the powerful north and the impoverished south, where the oppressed and colonized dream to be just like their oppressors from the north. Then, he divides the film in the after mentioned three episodes, ordered by the way that the director approaches the scene, a teacher who makes an argument for three different modes of seeing migration, where the refugees –and candidates to a residency- react affirming or denying the situation accordingly. And then ends with a fixed shot that wants to be a mirror of reality, which contains a conversation between the filmmaker and a group of African refugees somewhere on Italy.

Stranger in Paradise it’s a film about the possibility of empathy with the other, o about the human being as an element to be discarded. It’s documentary that tries different answers on the nature of tote arguments, which oppress and transform the refugees into political objects. In moments, it seems that we were inside a cruel reality show, where the reward is to be part of this humiliating Europe, the big prize of a life already devastated. And there lies the value of Hendrikx film, a big slap in the face on the foundations of occidental civilization, like those shots of the Parthenon in the dusk, musicalized by Leonard Cohen. A sublime irony that arises from pure ruins.

Competition Dox Awards
Written and directed by: Guido Hendrikx
Cinematography: Emo Weemhoff
Sound: Taco Drijfhout
Music: Ella van der Woude, Juho Nurmel
Netherlands, 2016

More information about this film in CHP:DOX program here