A friend of mine, a French citizen of Lebanese parentage, remarked on his government's refugee strategy: "It's the logic of life against the logic of the state."
I'd further nuance his assessment: It's the dangerous, divisive logic of "the West and the Rest." That is, victims of war and conflict are worthy of peace, but not all wars, not all conflicts, and certainly not all victims. (As if, for instance, the Scramble for Africa, Skyes-Pickott Agreement, and Global War on Terrorism, have had negligible impact on innumerable lives across time and space.)
- Elle Kurancid
BURDENS was spontaneously shot by reportage artist Peter Blodau last September and this past March in the Calais "Jungle" refugee and migrant camp, which has been described as "Europe's largest slum" or "a slum city on Britain’s doorstep." Independent journalist Elle Kurancid wrote and edited the film.
The camp's Eritrean and Ethiopian Christian church was shown mercy by the French government: Bulldozers were instructed to steer clear of the church of St. Michaels, which had been the recent focus of "the longest-running religious television programme in the world" (BBC One's Songs of Praise). As a central motif in BURDENS, the congregation channels peace in the face of the doublespeak-ridden war on refugees far and wide.
Beyond the church, a lingering haze of smoke and teargas signals the vicious cycle in motion: "It's the logic of life against the logic of the state." Some residents set light to their homes and other structures to disrupt the demolition. A young boy from Afghanistan explained: "We weren’t going to let [the French government] tear down [our homes], we wanted to burn them down first."
Prior to January's forced evictions and demolition, residents released the following statement: "We, the united people of the Jungle of Calais, decline the demands of the French government to reduce the size of the Jungle. We have decided to remain where we are and will peacefully resist the government's plans to destroy our homes. We plead with the French authorities and the international community that you understand our situation and respect our fundamental human rights."
Kurancid has collaborated with Blodau on three stories about the camp and its residents:
"Uncertain Refuge in Calais: Not All Wars and Not All Victims" for Le Monde diplomatique mondediplo.com/2016/05/13calais
"Struggling for Asylum, Refugees Face Bulldozers and Riot Police in Calais, France" for Truthout truth-out.org/news/item/34769
"Reportage Art from the Calais Jungle: 'A Sea of Tents Surrounds Me'" for the Los Angeles Review of Books lareviewofbooks.org/article/reportage-art-from-the-calais-jungle-a-sea-of-tents-surrounds-me/