8 Borders, 8 Days


Documentary Films | 2017 | 61 minutes

Stranger Says:

Some experiences resist narrative. The eight days in which Sham, a single mother, and her two children cross eight borders to make it from Syria to Germany do not come neatly packaged in a way that makes it easy for Western audiences to consume. Instead, the viewer is invited along for the ride—not as an analyst, not as a film buff, but as a witness. Intellectually, viewers probably know that the conflict in Syria has created the biggest humanitarian crisis of our times, with millions of refugees fleeing violence. But following Sham and her kids as they push through lines of border police beating refugees, as they wait outside a restaurant on the Macedonian border in the rain, as they sneak through tall grass in the dead of night to cross the Hungarian border, shows us something else. It shows just how devastating the indifference and nativism of non-Syrian citizens can be to a single family that survives. This is a raw, emotional path for a documentary to take, and it’s one everyone should see.

SIFF Says:

After Amanda Bailly, a documentary filmmaker, arrived on the Greek island of Lesbos in 2015 to cover the plight of fleeing Syrian refugees, she noticed one strong woman, named Sham, confronting a riot-gear-clad Greek police officer. Bailly was instantly drawn to her fearlessness under desperate circumstances, and decided to make her harrowing journey the focus of her film. The result is 8 Borders, 8 Days, an unblinking portrait of this single mother’s determination to escape the horrors of the Syrian civil war with her two children. After applying for a U.S. Visa, submitting to medical tests, and taking English classes, Sham never heard back from officials after 15 months, so she finally decided to brave the hazardous waters between Syria and Lesbos on a leaky smuggler’s raft. This immersive doc crams the rest of Sham’s story into a thrilling 60 minutes as she negotiates her way through an increasingly unwelcoming European bureaucracy to save her family. Bailly said her intent with this, her first feature-length documentary, is to highlight the fact that much smaller, poorer nations have taken in millions of Syrian refugees while the U.S. has accepted only 2,000 since fighting broke out. 8 Borders, 8 Days is a sobering testament to the dire human consequences of closing our doors on people we once considered the foundation of the American experiment.

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Film Credits
Amanda Bailly
SIFF 2017