By Anders Palm OLESEN


Art - Culture - Production 2021

A story about a Lebanese gravedigger who tries to honour an ancient Islamic custom where everyone, despite religion or nationality, is equally welcomed in death. However, an increasing number of Syrian refugees is starting to make burial a lucrative business. A tale of refugees in the "near-abroads"

    • Year of production
    • 2021
    • Genres
    • Art - Culture, Social issues, Documentary
    • Countries
    • Languages
    • Budget
    • 0.3 - 0.6 M$
    • Duration
    • 52 mn
    • Director(s)
    • Anders Palm OLESEN
    • Writer(s)
    • Anders Palm OLESEN
    • Producer(s)
    • Ingvild Aagedal SKAGE (Isme Film)
    • Synopsis
    • We are in a bookstore where the owner greets us with a chanting ‘hello, hello welcome!’. This old man will be a returning commentator throughout the film, singing songs of joy, hardship, despair - and of murder.

      At the strangers’ cemetery in Tripoli, Northern Lebanon, we hear the deep voice of caretaker, Abu Arab. The strangers’ cemetery, he says, is an ancient islamic custom for the foreigners and the poor. But these days, the cemetery is increasingly being filled with Syrian refugees. As Abu talks about his history, a bearded man approaches him, scolding him for filming. It is Al Quaf - a government licensed group - who Abu Arab says is trying to make money on the Syrians, even in death. Abu Arab, an old man and some kids start to clear a patch of land and begin digging a grave.

      A tented refugee camp next to the Litani River. We meet a Syrian family in their home, a tent. The camp is right next to the river and a Lebanese village. The river pollution has now started to kill the local villagers. A lab-technician blames it on e-coli coming from refugee camps. The director of the Litani River Authorities declares to ‘clear everything 20 meters from the river!’ Yellow bulldozers drive into the tented encampments, LRA-workers are forcefully removing Syrians from their homes. Back at the camp, an empty plot now remains of where the Syrian family’s tent once stood. We follow them on the move again, putting all their belongings into a truck and driving away.

      Back at the strangers’ cemetery, the work is slowly progressing, but the Al Quaf has taken de facto control over the cemetery. A commander is surrounded by his men with machine guns, all laughing: To those who fled Syria to another country, I beg you don't ever return, because even if the government forgives you, we will never forgive or forget." When trying to return home, the refugees are refused entrance and sent back at the local checkpoint: “no refugees allowed”. They are trapped in Lebanon.

      The flat plains of Baalbek are the new home of Syrian refugee Abu Hess, who lives with his wife, his younger daughter and baby in a small tent. The area is controlled by Hezbollah and they provide Abu Hess and his family with work in the surrounding fields. We follow Abu Hess on one of his nightly hunts defending his own family and shooting dogs coming too close. The refugee family is moving again. This time in the dead of night on the top of a roof.

      Maybe 30 Syrian men gather around the grave as the body of a young man is lowered down. It’s getting late, the burial is complete. We follow the old, deaf grave digger walking to his home. He lives on an old patch of the cemetery with other Syrian refugees, and we realize he is a Syrian refugee himself. We see the arrival of a new Syrian family in his camp. The bookshop owner meets us in a final song: Killing one man, he says, is a sin - but killing an entire village is as easy as rewriting the laws.. Thank you, he says, thank you for coming.