By: Fr Rob Esdaile
A film crew, led by a young film-maker, Orban Wallace, headed to the Greek island of Lesbos in 2015, just at the time when the images of the drowned three-year-old Syrian child, Aylan Kurdi, lying dead on a Turkish beach, were briefly awakening the conscience of the world. Looking for a new angle on how to report the crisis unfolding across Europe, they noticed the media feeding-frenzy that met the refugees. A mixture of 'veteran broadcasters' and rookies like themselves gathered in hordes to capture the same images at the same places - Lesbos, Athens, Serbia, the infamous Hungarian border fence - on the hopeless trek across the European continent in search of sanctuary.
Those journalists and film-crews became the story - one of them inadvertently giving Wallace's film its title, 'Its just Another News Story'. And, as they follow the trail with one particular rag-tag group of refugees, disturbing questions get raised for the viewer, both about the way the 24-hour rolling news agenda deals with complex and long-term issues and about the place of the viewer at home: Are the news crews innocent bystanders, journalists of record, the conscience of the world or just technicians filling a slot on the evening news until we get bored and the whole media circus moves on? And are we viewers being educated or manipulated by these images of human suffering far away? Is there something voyeuristic about our involvement? And how does the desire for simple narratives cope with long-running tragedies?
At the end of filming another disturbing note is introduced, with the November, 2015 bombings at the Stade de France and the Bataclan Theatre in Paris. Would popular sympathy for the refugees switch around to sheer hostility - despite the fact that most of the perpetrators of these attacks were 'home-grown Jihadis' - Belgian and French citizens, not refugees? The question is left hanging, with a warning from the news editor who takes centre stage in much of the filming: "Fear and propaganda together - that's the really dangerous combination."
The film, produced by Verity Wislocki, was given its first UK screening on Thursday, July 20 at BAFTA. Look out for it when it gets a public premiere and limited cinema release shortly. And prepare to be disturbed.