“I want to help people see reality as it really is.”
Over the last 6 months Jonas Lal has visited Pakistan, Italy, and Greece, in the hope of learning more about, and retelling, refugees’ stories; and by doing so to raise awareness about their circumstances. He came to Sweden as a refugee himself four years ago. With the help of documentary films he wants to help people understand the terrible reality that many refugees find themselves in.
It was at a film camp at Tjörn that Jonas met Simon Gunnarsson, film pedagog at Tjörn Municipality. Jonas showed Simon his first documentary film—a short film about a 17-year old boy who arrives in Sweden from Afghanistan and has his residence permit application rejected three times—and Simon saw straight away that Jonas had talent. They started to work together and to brainstorm ideas for Jonas next film. “I wanted to make a film that explains why people flee and how terrible their journeys can be. I want people to understand that nobody flees because they want to. They simply have no other option.”
The name of Jonas’ film is Den röda vägen (The Red Path), which alludes to the bloody journey that many refugees are forced to endure. Jonas tells that many who flee never make it to their destination, but die along the way. The difficulties don’t end when the journey is over either. In the new country, various challenges and tests await them, along with instability and, in some cases, homelessness. When I talk to Jonas he has just arrived home after a trip to Italy where he interviewed refugees. He’s still shaken from the experience.
“Every time I come home from my trips I feel depressed for a month. It’s terrible meeting people who have fled and are now forced into homelessness in Greece or Italy. They don’t get any support whatsoever, are beaten by the police, and sleep in parks. They can’t afford to buy food and have to rely on free food from the church.”
When Jonas compares his own experiences fleeing and coming to a new country with the stories from refugees in Italy and Greece, he says that Sweden appears to be paradise. Despite this, Sweden does have its problems too. “In Sweden it’s hard to be included in society. In general, Swedes aren’t so open, and many are scared to initiate contact with immigrants”, says Jonas.
Jonas hopes to contribute to helping more Swedes understand refugees’ backgrounds and, in doing so, dare to make contact with those who are new in the country. At the moment Jonas is studying at Komvux (municipal adult education), in the hope of being able to study international economics at university and also continue working with films. “My dream is to be able to work as a film producer. I want to help people to see reality as it really is.”