WAITING FOR HOME
A Film by Robert Bilheimer
"Waiting for Home" is the second film in Heart of the Matter, a series of documentaries about the exploitation of forced migrants seeking asylum in the US and around the world.
Waiting For Home Synopsis: The Story on Film
There are three interwoven segments to Waiting for Home, each of which addresses one or more aspects of the unique and disturbing nature of the Rohingya tragedy.
1. What Has Happened?
Waiting For Home will make the Rohingya experience real, giving it an historical context, so that the global audience for which the film is intended will, at the least, learn that these people exist; that they have long been persecuted; that their children are being exploited; that they live in a claustrophobic dump; and that, for the immediate future at least, they have nowhere to go. The filmmakers will use archival footage, and extensive visual imagery from the present, (see concept vimeo below) to visualize both the Rohingya’s tragic history and remarkable resilience.
2. Why Does No One Know Or Care?
The need to bring the Rohingya to life for the general public in a film like Waiting For Home begs the question, why? How can it be that long-term persecution, ethnic cleansing, mass murdering, and inhuman acts of cruelty have been perpetrated in a kind of awareness vacuum as far as the general public is concerned? Apart from annual visits to Cox’s Bazar on the anniversary of the Rakhine expulsion, the international news media visits rarely these days, and only a few films or documentaries have been made with the intent to reach a broad international audience. As one senior reporter at the BBC told Waiting For Home director Robert Bilheimer: I keep advocating for more in-depth reporting on the Rohingya, but the only I answer I get is that “it’s not a story anymore.”
While some who understand the moral implications of the Rohingya’s plight have said that their marginalization is a stain on the world’s conscience, the fact of the matter is that there is no conscience with respect to the Rohingya tragedy because their story, as the BBC reporter was told, is an old story, the same story, and therefore not a story at all. The fact that 700,000 children, women, and men are entrapped and exploited on an 18 mile strip of beach somewhere in Asia with nowhere to go just isn’t news enough, it seems.
This portion of Waiting For Home will seek to find out the real reasons why the story is not being told. What is at the heart of this? What kind of people are we, as Kofi Annan once asked. Here the filmmakers will conduct interviews with individuals who see parallels, for instance, between the Rohingya atrocities and the Holocaust; or individuals who see the nationalism that is dominant in the US and Europe as a kind of cancer on the global body politic, spreading fast and far, affecting innocent and vulnerable people everywhere in profound and lasting ways.
Waiting for Home Is A “Listening Film”
The story of the Rohingya, and why they are not part of us, tells us about the way the world is today, and it is a story there for the telling.
How the story is told, however, goes to the heart of why Robert Bilheimer and his small team of filmmakers believe their work can make a difference. In his book with Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez, In the Company of the Poor, Bilheimer’s longtime friend, Paul Farmer, writes about “reverent listening. ” By this Dr. Farmer means empowering the poor, the marginalized, and the oppressed to create their own narrative, speak in their own voices, and in so doing reshape their own destinies.
That, in a nutshell, is how Waiting For Home will work. It is a listening film, and its stories will be told by the Rohingya themselves, interspersed with the elements described above, which will give the stories context.
What will a 14-year-old Rohingya girl say when asked how she feels about her future? About the fact that she has nowhere to go? That she is not receiving the one thing she cherishes most, an education that would empower her? What are her hopes? Her fears? What is she waiting for? What is she expecting?
Despite the heartbreak of her existential reality, the hope lies in the fact that, at the least, someone has chosen to listen to this girl, acknowledge her existence, and share her story with thousands, if not millions of others. In this sense, Waiting For Home might best be described as an affirmation. We can still listen. We can still understand. We can still be compassionate.
A trope in human rights storytelling and work is often, “we need to give these marginalized people a voice.” That is not the point. They have a voice. They just need to be seen and listened to. That is the heart of the matter, and why we will wait with the Rohingya for home as long as it takes.
If you would like more information on the status of this segment or how to get involved, please contact Heidi Ostertag, firstname.lastname@example.org.