Visions du Réel Review: My Paper Life

While the continuing refugee crisis is never too far away from new headlines, the discourse is rarely positive or not toxic. Indeed, many people seem to forget that these are ordinary families. Normal people driven from their homeland by war, poverty, persecution or a myriad of other reasons. Everyone has their own individual story. Their own trauma. Their own unique and distinct experiences and viewpoints.

In her first feature documentary, Iranian artists and filmmaker Vida Dena tackles the refugee experience by interacting with a Syrian family living in Brussels. We rarely leave their home as we get to know this lively and friendly bunch. They have a shared passion for drawing and in My Paper Life it’s cleverly used to embellish discussions. The two eldest daughters, Hala and Rima, are the main focus.

My Paper Life is an intimate and affable portrait of a family trying to make a new start in an alien country. Dena, living in self-imposed exile in Belgium herself, captures what life is like for one group of people fleeing war. While they have all the same hopes, anxieties and fears as most people their age, the spectre of trauma lurks quietly in the background. Often unnoticed and unmentioned. My Paper Life is a highly empathetic piece of documentary filmmaking.

My Paper Life screened at Visions du Réel.

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