Review: Accommodation (2018)

Accommodation (2018)

Directed by: Jacqueline van Vugt | 70 minutes | documentary

Refugees are in the news almost every day, but who are these people? What is their story? And what does their existence in the Netherlands look like in practice? The documentary ‘Accommodation’ by Jacqueline van Vugt gives them a face and paints a tragic portrait of three Afghan boys, lost in a foreign country with bizarre bureaucracy.

Noori, Ghullam and Keiber fled from Afghanistan to Europe as teenagers. They eventually ended up in the Netherlands, where they have been waiting for a residence permit for years. They live in an old flat on the A2 in Maastricht, where they are assisted by Pol, Monique and Huub from the VLOT Foundation. They teach the boys the Dutch language and culture – after all, it is not allowed to take professional lessons here as long as they do not have a residence permit. Van Vugt closely follows the boys and their Dutch helpers as a ‘fly on the wall’, without appearing or speaking. We see them while away the time making drawings and rap songs, they skate on the Vrijthof and meet with Maastricht city council members. In the meantime, they meet a lawyer who assists them with the IND, whose delay after delay (the IND refused to cooperate with the documentary).

Without making any political pretensions, ‘Accommodation’ shows us the reality of the refugee problem. With no status and continuously awaiting news of their application, Noori, Ghullam and Keiber are rudderless. They are mentally ill, and they face an invisible government force that they do not understand. For example, one of them has to ‘prove’ to the IND that he is homosexual, which is very difficult because of the great taboo on homosexuality within Afghan culture (and how do you prove something like that at all?). The other is a converted Christian, which results in a funny conversation with Pol, whose atheism is so alien to the boys that it fascinates them (“but what do you believe in?”). This lighthearted moment of humanity makes them more than victims – they are young people discovering a new, strange world.

For those who are tired of the polarizing debates and want to see the human side of the refugee crisis in all its multi-colouredness, ‘Accommodation’ is an absolute must.

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