How did the making of The Deal come about?
We travelled to Lesbos to see what the EU-Turkey deal meant in practice. And we were shocked. Thousands of people were crammed into camp Moria, without decent sanitary facilities, no proper help for their medical needs, and without proper legal aid. It’s a humanitarian crisis in Europe and the EU is looking away. With our film we wanted to make a nuanced and critical analysis of the deal and the people directly involved: the ‘architect’ of the deal Gerald Knaus, refugee Ramy Qudmany, who crossed after the deal, was shipwrecked and has been stuck on the island for more than one and half years, the volunteers from all over Europe who want to help and Greek Katerina, who helps refugees and almost serves as a ‘moral conscience’.
The Deal is part of the cross media project ‘The Asylum Search Engine’, a cross-border, multidisciplinary, transmedia project that explores the complex world of European asylum policy and connected asylum policies of EU member states. The main and initial component is a web documentary providing insight into the European and different national asylum policies and inviting users to think about how they think the policies should work.
The refugee crisis has deeply divided Europe. While some call for closed borders, others advocate free entry. Although few topics ignite such heated debate, how and whether the policies work is almost impossible to comprehend thanks to the vast number of procedures, organizations, rules and exceptions. We live in a democratic society where we share responsibility for our asylum policy. But how can we be sure it is the right policy if it is too complex for most people to comprehend? The EU Asylum Search Engine aims to unravel these complexities. It poses the questions: How does our asylum policy work? And how do we actually want it to work?
At what moment did you think ‘This won’t work, I’ll have to give up’. And how did you continue from there?
Funding for the film was difficult, because the refugee topic is no longer ‘hot’. Fortunately we had the support of broadcaster IKON/EO and two smaller funds. But we made it really low-budget (with the support of our amazing crew).
During the research and production we often asked ourselves: how are we going to tell such a tough, bureaucratic story in a film? Also, things are shifting quickly, new policies are made every day, new deals were being constantly discussed. When we were filming on Lesbos even the Refugee Treaty itself came under attack.
How can we make a film that is up to date and at the same time is more than something you would see on the news?
During the edit period we often thought: hell, this is not going to work. But that is a normal process. And in the end we discovered that telling the story from three different perspectives brought the complex political and rational story also to the heart.
Could you tell us something about the state of narrative in your country, The Netherlands?
There are many possibilities for storytelling in The Netherlands, both in the sense of funding as well as media outlets that are open for different (and new) forms of storytelling. I’m really lucky to be based here.
Who are your narrative hero’s in your country?
In writing, I’m inspired by the work of Joris Luyendijk, whose productions are all well investigated and of great quality, and Paul Teunissen, who writes great narrative stories. Others I look up to are Minka Nijhuis, Ryszard Kapuściński and F. Springer. Filmmakers that inspire me are Kim Longinotto and Baz Luhrmann. I’m also inspired by the radio projects of Laura Stek and the trans-media projects and photography of Anaïs Lopez, whose project The Migrant I co-produced.