By Cameron R. Flatt, E23 Reporter
“Strangers in Paradise” is a documentary from first time director Guido Hendrikx. Shot almost entirely in a classroom, a Dutch actor speaks with three distinct approaches to three different groups of refugees about their problems.
Presenting multiple views on the refugee crisis from a European perspective, Hendrikx set out to present the people as more than just victims.
Success in this objective proves to be the film’s high point. Getting a feel for people that come from half way around the world is captivating, no matter what your view on the subject. Some are seeking work, others are escaping violence, and one is pursuing a musical career.
Not only are we shown a range of purposes for fleeing their respective countries, but we also get to see their reactions to the various opinions about them held by westerners.
The camera work also distinguishes this documentary as it is almost entirely shot with hand held close ups from a distance, with the camera often swinging back and forth between subjects rather than cutting between angles. The result is an often uncomfortable intimacy with these people and their wide range of emotions.
The combination of singular setting and simplistic use of camera work, while mostly affective, does, unfortunately, make portions of the film a chore to sit through. I found myself tuning out at times because I was seeing a lot of the same shots over and over without much variety.
There is also not much dialogue variation in some parts as most of the refugees have limited English skills. The flip side to this is that, when the movie does finally break from the close up and/or class room setting, it is a welcome relief. Those scenes are all excellently shot and executed as well.
Overall, “Strangers in Paradise”’s unique approach to documentary filmmaking will not be for everyone, but will definitely catch the eye of avid documentary watchers. It interjects multiple ideologies into a deceptively simple presentation on a world wide issue that effects millions of people.
I do not know if this is one I would be extremely happy with if I paid for it, but it does provide great food for thought and would be a good home watch for a group of people looking for intellectual stimulation.