Refugees’ stories inspire film-makers at Berlin Film Festival

Migration, an issue that has vexed Germany since its 2015 refugee crisis, proved fertile ground for film-makers at this year's Berlin Film Festival where they showcased movies looking at refugees' stories of escape, arrival and integration.

This year's Berlinale - the 68th edition of the festival set up in 1951 to showcase films addressing social and political issues - shows refugees' experiences in at least eight entries ranging from documentaries to an adaptation of a 1940s novel.

Film-makers said they wanted to send a political message and show how migration was changing Europe.

"It is much more that you now look at what refugees are doing after they arrived in our Europe. What is their future?" said festival director Dieter Kosslick.

Eldorado, by Swiss director Markus Imhoof, follows migrants who were rescued from near the Libyan coast and taken to Italy where they could either wait in shelters and sometimes end up being deported or leave the camps to work illegally and risk being exploited.

Imhoof also tells a personal story of his family taking in an Italian girl after World War II and having to give her up.

Another documentary, Central Airport THF, shows the lives of those who stay and wait in asylum shelters through a 15-month blog of a Syrian refugee living in Berlin's Tempelhof airport.

"The most important question politically speaking to Europe now is how can Europe be a diverse continent. It is really great that there are films that are dealing with that," said Brazilian film director Karim Ainouz.

Through a fictional story set in contemporary France showing Germans escaping troops that are occupying Marseilles, Transit adapts a novel by Jewish author Anna Seghers, who told her own escape story from Nazi Germany in 1940.

The film, one of 19 competing for the festival's Golden Bear award, details the desperate journey of refugees trying to secure visas and official papers in a bid to escape persecution.

Transit's director, Christian Petzold, said he wanted to send a political message concerning the idea of asylum law in the German Constitution.

In Styx, a female solo sailor faces a dilemma when she sees an overcrowded boat carrying refugees, some of whom jump off as it starts to sink.

The coast guard tells her not to assist, assuring her that help is on the way. But hours pass and when a young refugee boy starts swimming towards her, she takes him on board.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who covered the facade of Berlin's concert hall with 14,000 life jackets from refugees during Berlinale two years ago, showcases his first feature-length film. Human Flow is a documentary visiting more than 40 refugee camps in 23 countries. - REUTERS