Brazilian-Algerian director Karim Ainouz explores refugee crisis in new film

From left, Karim Ainouz, Ibrahim Al-Hussein from Syria, and Qutaiba Nafea from Iraq, in Berlin, Germany. (Reuters)
Updated 17 February 2018
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Brazilian-Algerian director Karim Ainouz explores refugee crisis in new film

BERLIN: In 2015, with Germany facing turmoil after flinging its doors open to a million refugees, Berlin repurposed a defunct airport to house them, creating an ad hoc village that is the setting for a film premiering at the Berlinale film festival.
Built by forced labor on the orders of Adolf Hitler’s architect Albert Speer, Tempelhof Airport is a mirror of its city’s history, serving as West Berlin’s lifeline during the 1948 Soviet blockade.
The airport was closed in 2008 and its runways were turned into a garden the size of New York’s Central Park for a now united city.
Its hangars, the setting for the documentary “Central Airport THF,” in 2015 became an emergency shelter for more than 2,000 of the million-odd people who came to Germany, fleeing war and persecution in the Middle East and Africa.
The film, by Brazilian-Algerian director Karim Ainouz, documents the life of the airport’s new residents, drawing a parallel between the lives of Berliners in the vast adjacent park, contrasting refugees with hipsters on kite skates, joggers and picnicking families.
“There was a contrast there that I thought was really important to document,” said Ainouz, who said he wanted to show the lives of refugees through a more personal lens than was then common.
Ibrahim Al-Hussein, a Syrian from Aleppo, had just turned 18 when he arrived at the airport and had to live in the hastily built shelter for more than a year where Ainouz met him.
Qutaiba Nafea, another of Ainouz’s subjects, is a 38-year-old Iraqi refugee who was studying to be a doctor in his home country but found himself working as a translator at the shelter health center.
“It was like a life blog for me, I was filming my daily life here,” said Al-Hussein.
Al-Hussein’s monologues and his depictions of daily life at the shelter reflect the uncertainty, the homesickness and the hope for a new future which overshadow refugees’ lives while waiting for their asylum applications.
The young protagonist now works at a cinema himself and is an aspiring film editor.
“People from all around the world will come and watch the film and get an idea about our life at the airport,” he said.


Prince Harry raises Invictus Games flag over Sydney Harbor

Updated 19 October 2018
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Prince Harry raises Invictus Games flag over Sydney Harbor

  • The sporting event, founded by Prince Harry in 2014, starts on Saturday
  • Prince Harry and his wife, American former actress Meghan Markle, will attend the opening and closing games ceremonies.

SYDNEY: Prince Harry scaled the Sydney Harbor Bridge on Friday to raise a flag marking the arrival of the Invictus Games, his brainchild and the focus of his current royal tour of Australia and the South Pacific.
The sporting event, founded by Harry in 2014, starts on Saturday. It gives sick and injured military personnel and veterans the opportunity to compete in sports such as wheelchair basketball and to find inspiration to recover.
The fact that the Duchess of Sussex never planned to climb the world’s tallest steel arch bridge with her husband had fueled speculation that she is pregnant. The speculation was confirmed on Monday when Harry and the former Meghan Markle announced that their first child is due in the northern spring.
Harry, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, four members of the Australian team and the widow of an Australian veteran climbed more than 1,000 steps up the back of an arch to raise the Invictus Games Sydney 2018 flag.
“The Sydney Harbor Bridge is an Australian icon and I can think of no better place to raise the ... flag,” Morrison said in a statement.
During the descent, Harry hugged fellow climber Gwen Cherne, a games ambassador whose husband Peter Cafe, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, took his own life in February.
“We were talking about mental health and really working on changing the way that our global community looks at mental health and deals with it,” Cherne said later.
The flag will fly 134 meters (440 feet) above Sydney Harbor until the games close on Oct. 27.
Harry and his American former actress wife will attend the opening and closing games ceremonies. Around 500 athletes from 18 nations will compete in venues around Sydney.
The couple earlier Friday walked barefoot on Bondi Beach to meet a group of surfers focused on mental wellbeing.
The group, OneWave, meet weekly in an “anti-bad vibe circle” on the sand.
While the group dressed in loud and outrageous fluorescent outfits, Harry and Meghan were more subdued, but their message to the group was clear.
“They’re super passionate about mental health. They are showing that mental health does not discriminate,” OneWave co-founder Grant Trebilco said.
Charlotte Connell, a OneWave member, said Harry spoke of his own experiences seeking counselling more than 20 years after his mother, Princess Diana, died in a car crash in a Paris tunnel in 1997 when he was aged 12.
“Harry said it took him not six months, but 18 months to find the right person to speak to. ‘You’re not going to find the right person to speak to straight away,’” Connell said.
Both Harry and Meghan used exercise as a way of keeping well, Connell said.
“Even in her jetlagged state, she got up in the morning and did yoga at 4.30am,” Connell said.
“She said it’s so good for healing her mind,” Connell added.
After Bondi, the couple made an unannounced visit to Macarthur Girls High School in Parramatta in central Sydney.
The shrieking students gave the couple a rock star welcome to a school assembly.
“When they walked in, I felt like my heart stopped. Their presence just made everyone shocked,” 15-year-old student Rhiannon said.
The couple finished their day’s events with formal meetings with Morrison and opposition leader Bill Shorten.
Harry and Meghan will also visit Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand during their 16-day tour.