THE STRANGERS´ CEMETERY (2021)
Genre: Documentary (52 minutes)
Director: Anders Palm Olesen
Production company: Express TV-Production/Isme Film
Financiers: Western Norwegian Film Centre, Fritt Ord, Filmværkstedet, IMS
A STRANGERS´ CEMETERY is an ancient Islamic custom where everyone despite religion or nationality are equally welcomed in death. This is a story about a Lebanese gravedigger who tries to honour this ancient tradition. Simultaneously, others are trying to make money off the dead. The increasing number of Syrian refugees start to make burial a lucrative business. Against this backdrop, the film tells stories of Syrian refugees in what Europe refers to as the "Near Abroad".
I filmed and directed The Strangers’ Cemetery while living and studying in Lebanon for one year. It was the year leading up to the revolution and before the disastrous explosion in the port of Beirut. Albeit my heart is with the Lebanese people, this is not a film about these very significant events. Other filmmakers, much more capable and relevant than a white European male such as myself, will tell the stories that need to be told.The Strangers’ Cemetery evolved for me from two quite simple but horrifying realisations: That the destruction of the Earth’s nature and environment is also a destruction of memory, hope and belonging; and that this destruction is not equally divided around the world.
I came to realise that those whose destiny is most linked to environmental destruction are those "who are turned away, deported, expelled; the clandestine, the “undocumented” - the intruders and castoffs from humanity that we want to get rid of because we think that, between them and us, there is nothing worth saving, and that they fundamentally pose a threat to our lives, our health, our well-being” (Achille Mbembe).Western media- and political narratives frustrate me; both on the so-called Middle Eastern region — and on the topic of refugees in particular. By contrasting death and nature, refuge and belonging, I invite the viewer to explore other narratives than those presented by the media — with the hope that it may transpire ideas and imaginings of a more positive future.