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« Fortune hens | Home | Das war einmal »

Hotel of Hope

Wednesday 09 March 2016 Monday 29th February
Today in the news: “Hundreds of refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border have stormed the barrier at the border Monday. They used a self-made battering ram. The Macedonian police used teargas to drive back the refugees. The Greek police stood aloof according to the media of that country. Thousands of migrants gathered at the Macedonian border. They want to go to the Northwest of Europe. Macedonia accepts just a few refugees from a small number of countries .” Source: nu.nl

That happened today. On TV there were pictures of tear gassed refugees and mothers showing empty baby’s bottles. Of children with wide-open, perplexed eyes. They probably will remember the shouting of desperate people for the rest of their lives.

Today: a lot of mail in my mailbox. A lot of merchandise. For example a discount for a stay in a luxury hotel. Room with a beautiful view. Three nights for the price of two, breakfast included. A bargain.

Yesterday: I watched the movie “Problemski Hotel”. A movie based upon Dimitri Verhulst’s book of the same name. “Problemski Hotel” is about the life in a Flemish asylum seekers centre. To get a full picture, Dimitri Verhulst stayed a couple of days in the centre back then. (the book is published in 2003). Half of his stories are imaginary, he says, but none of the stories contains lies.
Mostly I’m not fond of filmed books. Because when reading, the reader himself imagines the story and characters. And my experience is that what I ‘see’ reading a book, is more beautiful than what the filmmakers make of it. That’s why I decided to see the movie first and then read the book.
The movie is about refugees who have had a difficult, dangerous journey to West-Europe and were waiting for a residence permit now. They were save. Here they didn’t have to be afraid of bombs, grenades or other danger. But instead there was this fear they would have to leave again. No-one could guarantee that they were allowed to stay. They had to wait and in the meantime there were these mutual tensions by annoying, loneliness, cultural differences and language problems.
“Problemski Hotel” is not a jolly movie, although the filmmakers didn’t forget the humour. There are a couple of ‘running gags’. Like a Christmas tree which is dragged during the whole movie. And a man who wants a Belgian woman very much, but he cannot get the hang of flirting. It gives you a soft smile: “look at him acting clumsy”.
The movie paints a harrowing picture of life in an asylum seekers centre. Imagine you have to suffer it yourself: a dangerous journey to a country which is not waiting for you, but where your life is dominated by waiting all the time. And by hope. Hoping for a residence permit, a job, a house. Hoping for a safe and good life. Hoping and waiting. Hoping that there is nothing after death. From fear that even for heaven a residence permit must be requested and that there is a long waiting list to be allowed into the afterlife.

Somewhere I read a review about “Hotel Problemski” which stated that the movie doesn’t last in the memory of the viewer. That critic may speak for himself. I am convinced that many viewers will be impressed by the stories and that several characters in the movie will be remembered. The stories may be imaginary, but none of the stories contains lies, says Dimitri Verhulst. I believe him. By the way, the truth is often more crude than the imagination.

Today’s special offer: Three nights in a luxury hotel for the price of two!

Today in the news: Hundreds of refugees try to enter Northwest Europe with a self-made battering ram. To a country where they hope to get a room in what will not only be a Problemski Hotel for them, but will be a hotel of hope too. And of waiting.

Translated by Astrid Kostelijk and Piet Commandeur


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