30 Meters of Silence - Een film van Al Massad

2005. 35 min documentary.

Utrecht 1991, the old Military Hospital located on Joseph Haydnlaan, is moved to the ‘de Uithof’ allowing the original site to be redeveloped and restored. The interim period saw the Military Hospital take residency at the Academisch Ziekenhuis. Since 1942, the primary use for the Military Hospital was housing military soldiers.

However, after the restoration the building became occupied by citizens, but this time they were asylum seekers. Men, women and children from all corners of the world, waiting for a chance to start a new life.

All asylum seekers expected to move on quickly, but the reality was that many of them stayed in the complex for several years. In 1995 filmmaker Mahmoud al Massad, lived across the road from the asylum centre.

From inside his house he watched the refugee children playing and interacting with one another. The children, aged between five and seven years had arrived at he centre from all parts of the world: Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Ethiopia and Turkey. Bound together by circumstance the children played with one another with out prejudiced and prejudgement of cultural background or language barriers.

Compelled to document what he had seen, Mahmoud decided to film and photograph the children. The result was 45 minutes of super 8 and a Hi 8 film material. Seven years later Mahmoud still waiting for his permit of residency, finally received notice that he had been accepted. In the meantime he had moved houses and lost contact with the children. Towards the end of 2002, while shifting some old boxes Mahmound came across the archive footage of the refugee children. After examining the footage his curiosity was running wild. How are all the children actually doing? The group of children are now between 12 and 14 years of age. If still living in the Netherlands most would now be attending high school, having to make new friends. Most would be faced with having to make choices about what direction in life they are going to take, where to go out and the experiences of beginning relationships.

Are these children busy with these thoughts? What has happened in the last seven years? What do they expect in the near future, what are their ideals, beliefs and dreams. They came to the Netherlands as children of asylum seekers, forced to live in a foreign land. The film 30 metres of Silence, searches to uncover how the lives of these children over the last seven years.

- Silver Hawk 2006 - Arab Film Festival Rotterdam