"Stranger in Paradise"
Guido Hendrikx's film screening

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    Still from the movie "Stranger in Paradise", dir. Guido Hendrikx, Netherlands, 2016

Aleksandra Chrzanowska (Association for Legal Intervention), the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, and Against Gravity invite the public to a screening of Guido Hendrikx’s film Stranger in Paradise.

In Sicily, behind the walls of the fortress called Europe, immigrants just arrived from countries in Africa and Asia attend lessons on life in the new continent and how the assimilation process works. The instructor skilfully selects facts to evoke extreme emotions. First he attempts to shame the audience, and then a moment later stresses the rightfulness of their presence in Europe. There is never any doubt that the relation between teacher and immigrants is based on power.

The stakes in the game played by the teacher are the future of the people in the class, where a curious lesson is underway. Soon the leader of the lesson begins to ask the immigrants penetrating questions. The answers will decide who is granted political asylum. We observe the selection process. This is the moment that betrays the arbitrariness of the regulations as translated into the fate of individuals. Guido Hendrikx skilfully conveys the weight of the decisions taken before the camera and the accompanying tension.

The discussions between the representative of Europe and the immigrants presented in the film reflect the direction of the contemporary public debate on Europe’s obligations to persons knocking on its door hoping for improvement in their living conditions. The costs of maintaining the arrivals and Europe’s burdensome legacy of colonialism are just a few of the issues touched on in the film.

By introducing into the documentary space elements traditionally assigned to fictional narratives, the director exposes socially engaged art and asks whether it is often too weak a tool in the fight for improvement in the situation of his protagonists. In his self-irony, Hendrikx asks, Does an image still have the power to change reality?

"Stranger in Paradise", directed by Guido Hendrikx, Netherlands, 2016, 72 min.

Guido Hendrikx was born in 1987 and raised in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. He studied art and liberal arts, focusing on philosophy, criminology, film studies and journalism. In 2010 he directed his first short film, Day Is Done. As a student at the Netherlands Film Academy he directed shorts that won awards around the world: Escort (2013, Oscar nominee) and Among Us (2014). Stranger in Paradise, the director’s feature-length debut, opened the IDFA festival in 2016.

Aleksandra Chrzanowska is a cultural studies graduate of the University of Warsaw. In 2005–2006 she worked as a translator in the Polish group of Doctors Without Borders, carrying out a program of psychological aid for persons seeking refugee status. Since 2006 she has worked with refugees as an integration and cross-cultural adviser at the Association for Legal Intervention (SIP), and has served on the SIP management board since 2008. She is the author of publications on integration of refugees and multiculturalism. In 2015 she was the winner of the 8th edition of the Jerzy Zimowski Award, recognizing efforts for social groups in dire circumstances, particularly migrants and refugees. She is a member of the Committee of Migration Experts and the National Mechanism for Prevention of Torture in the Ombudsman’s Office.

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