Programmed by Charlotte Selb
2021 :Special Mention / International Competition - DocPoint Festival Helsinki Finland 2020: Best Film Award - Human Rights Film Festival, Inconvenient Films Lithuania; Youth Jury Prize / International Competition - Filmmaker Festival Milano Italy; Berlinale - Berlin (Allemagne) - Forum Expanded; Visions du Réel - Nyon (Suisse) - Feature-length competition
Made from images filmed by the Syrian artist Amel Alzakout after the boat on which she was fleeing Syria sank off the coast of Lesbos, Purple Sea reports on the moment in which the co-director and the other passengers are floating in the sea in their life-jackets, waiting to be rescued. Her voice-over accompanies this extremely poignant experience.
A word from Tënk
Amel Alzakout recorded her crossing from Istanbul, from which 15 hours of navigation is required to arrive by boat in Greece. She documents the trajectory with a small waterproof camera that she hides in her life vest; as the boat capsizes, the camera continues filming of its own accord.
Alzakout wanted to document the journey first and foremost for herself. The idea of making a film with the material came later, raising various legal issues: how to use these images without adversely affecting the dignity of those featured in them? She was firm on one point: not one face would be revealed. The only scene in which, motivated by anger, she deliberately orients her camera towards a subject–certainly a non-human one–shows the arrival of a military helicopter that negotiates the shipwreck from the air above.
She accompanies these images with a poetic narration: a stream of consciousness of a kind, an oral history that counters the dominant external media discourse.
For her, it is essential to relate her experience in emotional terms, avoiding representing herself as victim. What sorts of thoughts occupy the minds of people awaiting such a rescue? It’s the very question that motivates her narration, in which the “I” becomes generic, able to express the lived experience of other refugees who have undertaken this same crossing. Khaled Abdulwahed, her partner and co-director, served as a witness of a kind, who could do nothing but follow the GPS dot and wait, already in Europe, struggling as he was with a strong sense of guilt. The narration, written in dialogue, constructs an emotional mosaic of the feeling-scape each experiences during this journey.
Tënk's Artistic Director