European short film festivals join forces to fight xenophobia

REFUGEES WELCOME: «My Honeymoon» by Eileen Hofer (Switzerland 2013) from Int. Kurzfilmtage Winterthur on Vimeo.

As the current refugee crisis in Europe makes headlines across the world, more than 30 European short film festivals have joined forces to help promote a message of tolerance and understanding.

The Swiss documentary short My Honeymoon has been made available online to help people share the story of a Syrian refugee by the name of Berivan. Eileen Hofer’s film was originally made in 2013 when 11'600 asylum seekers, most of them Syrians, arrived in Bulgaria, one of the poorest countries of the European Union. It is hoped that by showing the film online – and tweeting about it using the hashtags #StopXenophobia and #RefugeesWelcome – that people will have a better understanding of the human beings that are often obscured by a mass of statistics.

Hofer recalls how the film was made:

“I was invited by Visions du reel to do a short film of 3 minutes for their 45th anniversary. I read an article in November 2013 about refugees arriving in Sofia and being stuck in an old school in the suburb. Around 900 people with no electricity,heater, one toilet per floor. The neighbours decided to help them by bringing food, blankets, etc.”

“I booked a flight and went there with 200 USD, a few warm clothes and school materials I got from my mother and friends. I could buy for each of the 230 families milk, flour, rice, sugar and oil that we distributed there. Meanwhile I had heard about this Berivan and wanted to meet her but as a journalist I was not authorised to enter nor to film therefore I interviewed her in her "room" and filmed her from the back with a Canon 7D.”

“I was impressed by the number of volunteers who tried to help them including Yavor Siderov -currently adviser to the deputy prime minister for anti-corruption - who was very involved.”

“The film shows one woman who studied at the university and she is like me in a sense. It could have been me. We are not talking about 200'000 people but one woman who uses her sense of humour.”

John Canciani, the artistic director of the Kurzfilmtage Winterthur who spearheaded the move to show the film online, said:

“The Refugee situation has been bad for a very long time but it now has hit a peak which is unbearable. We talked about this during a coffee break here at the office and we all had the same urge to do something. We also saw how – for years - populist politicians have been ignoring the misfortunes of thousands of human beings, who suffered going through hell to find their way to new hope or – indeed - any kind of hope in their life. We just don't want to be part of the silent majority and we had to take action.”

“We brainstormed and quickly we knew that Eileen's film is the perfect one to go online. It's short and condenses so many things in those 4 minutes, it's the perfect short film to treat this topic in a very respectful way, a way all those thousands of people deserve. I was sure Eileen will be in and I had the feeling, having so many festival friends out there who share the same values, that they will be in too. The response was great!”

“As Festivals we have a responsibility to show people images outside of mass media. We need to provide alternatives and give people an option to have more sources and have basis to make their own personal opinion.”

My Honeymoon will be available online for the foreseeable future. If you are a festival and want to add your support to the campaign please email John Canciani. Or you can tweet the link with the film with the hashtags #StopXenophobia and #RefugeesWelcome

The link for the film is at:

The current list of involved festivals is:

Animateka Ljubljana

Berlinale Shorts

Curtas Vila do Conde

DokuFest Prizren

EMAF Osnabrück

Festival du Court-Métrage de Clermont-Ferrand

Festival International du film sur les Droits Humaines

Filmfest Hamburg

Filmstelle Zürich

Glasgow SFF

Go Short ISFF Nijmegen

IndieCork FF

IndieLisboa International Independent Film Festival

Internationaal Kortfilmfestival Leuven

Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur

Internationales KurzFilmFestival Hamburg


Kino Xenix

Kortfilmfestivalen Grimstad

Kratkofil IFF

London SFF

Milano FF

Schweizer Jugendfilmtage

Short Waves

Solothurner Filmtage

Tampere FF

Uppsala SFF

VIS Vienna Independent Shorts

Zubroffka SFF

09 September 2015, by Laurence Boyce