Interview: Asher Emmanuel

What is your upcoming film Warehoused (which you co-directed) about?

  • Warehoused is a feature documentary that explores the plight of refugees living in the world’s largest refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. The camp opened as a temporary solution in 1991 to hold 90,000 refugees but since then the population has swelled to over 500,000 refugees covering 50 square miles which is roughly the size of Atlanta. While the documentary looks at the inner workings of the camp at its heart is the story of Liban Muhammad and his journey to reunite with his family after being separated from them for ten years. 

How did you get involved with the project?

  • A good friend of mine Matt Turner had a non-profit organization in Kenya that helped provide clean water and he had a passion for ‘warehoused' or protracted refugees which are refugees living in a camp for five years or more, unable to return home due famine or war-torn conflict zones. The host country they reside in forbids them from working, becoming a citizen, and denials them freedom of movement. They are confided to stay in these camps by law, 100% dependent on foreign aid and wait for their opportunity for resettlement to a first world country that almost surely never comes. He wanted to make a documentary that focused on these forgotten people so we developed that idea but we needed a producer to help us find the funding. I met Vincent Vittorio through a mutual friend and together we worked on this passion project to make it a reality.  

Why do you think stories around refugees are particularly poignant and popular at the moment?

  • When you look at politics on a historical level I think vulnerable or marginalized people are often the first people to be targeted as a scape goat for whatever the problem of the day. I think fear is a powerful motivator and I think its political expedient to paint a group of people with little to no political voice with a broad paint brush rather than deal with your country's complex economic-political reality of a given situation. You get to shift the blame of the ills of your society onto an outsider or “other” and sideline having to look into the mirror and do the hard work on making a more just and charitable society. You can do this year after year and as the situation worsens you can use this as justification for your targeting of "x" group. 

Could western countries be doing more to help these people out?

  • Increase funding to organizations like the UNHCR and other NGO’s that provide essential aid to refugees who are dependent on the aid. Work towards disbanding refugees camps and advocate for freedom of movement and full integration into society. Aside from a moral/ethical argument research has shown that its better for a local economy if you allow people to have freedom of movement and to work freely. To me these seem like obvious solutions to implement but like we talked earlier sometimes the right thing to do isn’t the most politically expedient thing to do for the next election cycle or news headline 

What are your five favorite documentary films?

  • In this order: The Interrupters, OJ: Made in America, Grizzy Man, The Act of Killing and The Imposter
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