REFUGEES: Gradually revealing the entire picture, this observational documentary not only highlights many of those missing during the Arab Spring, but also the constant nature of a woman’s work.
Melita Zajc
Melita Zajc is a media anthropologist and philosopher. Regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: April 8, 2019

Only the film’s end titles provide the tragic historical coordinates – 504 Tunisian migrants who left for the Italian coast during the Arab spring remain missing to this day. In Those Who Remain, Om El Khir – whose husband is amongst the missing – tells their story.

Om El Khir enters the film as an acousmatic voice; first, behind a black screen, then, from a semi-closed turquoise door without lock or handle. We then see her from behind, simultaneously talking on a mobile phone and also to her children in another room. In the third shot, she sits on a sofa, holding a large framed photograph of a man’s face in her lap, whispering to her youngest child to give him a kiss. The child does, embracing the photo, whispering, «Dad».

Om El Khir Ouirtani
Om El Khir Ouirtani

A woman’s work

From these early shots, viewers learn the two most important things about the film – the father in this family is missing, and the mother is constantly forced to do several things at once. One of its more peculiar qualities is how the emotions of care, fear, love, and friendship are visualized by showing women at work – cooking, making a bed, unpacking her children’s …

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