Director: Daphne Matziaraki
View on: Vimeo
*Note: This post is part of a series I am writing on the 2017 Oscar nominees for best documentary short.
After the President’s recent executive order that banned people from seven Muslim-majority countries for the foreseeable future from coming into the United States (including refugees), this documentary short is particularly important.
4.1 Miles provides a glimpse into the terrible ordeal that many refugees go through to flee war zones. The documentary takes place mostly on a Greek boat that is called out to the sea several times a day to rescue groups of refugees who are essentially on blow-up rafts, packed to the brim with people, and not built for the sea conditions on which they must travel. The refugees have to travel 4.1 miles from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos, and the journey can be deadly.
I watched this documentary short mesmerized with tears in my eyes. There is no editing of the footage on the boat – you watch as the boat comes upon dozen of people floating in the water, fighting the waves and trying not to drown. You see the crew of the boat throwing out life preservers and pulling children, women, and men into the boat as quickly as they can. You see them giving CPR to young kids. And then, when they get to shore, you see them continue to give CPR to little children in makeshift blankets while they wait for an ambulance to come.
Not everyone survives.
“The world needs to know what is happening here! We can’t be going through this alone!”
4.1 Miles touches on the fact that Lesbos doesn’t have the resources to handle such an influx in immigrants, particularly the children who have been orphaned by the journey. The town of Lesbos comes together to save the lives of these refugees, 600,000 between 2015 and 2016, with little help. They recognize that these refugees are human beings who are willing to endure terrible circumstances and risk death to flee their war-torn homeland.
So what can you do? If you’re living in the U.S. like me it feels a world away – like I am helpless to this problem. But we are not helpless to assist. First, call your Senators and Representatives and tell them to act to oppose the President’s executive order! With enough pressure and a little luck, the order will be rescinded. Second, check out the work of the International Rescue Committee. Consider donating to them, and look at their “how to help” section. And finally, consider helping a refugee relocation agency in your local community. In Texas, we have a great organization called Refugee Services of Texas that helps to resettle refugees, providing them with assistance in setting up a home and getting settled in their new land, where everything is new.