On Our Doorstep
1 Jul 2022
An on-the-ground documentary filmed in 2015 and 2016 covering the lives of refugees and the work of volunteers inside the ‘Calais Jungle’, a refugee camp whose populous aimed to claim asylum in the UK.
It is disheartening to write that this is an essential documentary recording the conditions people fleeing conflict and danger have to live in because of the total lack of empathy and frankly racist actions of the powers that be in the UK and France. The injustice is multiplied when one takes into consideration that the displacement of many of the refugees is a consequence of conflicts the UK has either been directly involved in or taken part in as a proxy war over the past few decades.
On Our Doorstep provides first-hand footage of the very real conditions in which the refugees lived in Calais. It shows in detail the abject poverty, the unaccompanied children, and the dangers of the camp. It also documents in frightening detail the extreme dangers of traveling to the UK, particularly the method of hiding in the back of a refrigerated lorry, which is known to have claimed many lives. But at the same time, it shows the resilience of the human spirit. How they have tried to form a community and make the best of a living situation. How different peoples from radically different backgrounds can come together. The resourcefulness, crafting restaurants and religious buildings from what little materials they have. Not to mention the captivating and unifying power of music. One man credited as Ammar from Syria talks of the camp being “90 percent bad, but if you looked for the 10 percent you could really enjoy the 10 percent”. However, once the refugees actually start to progress towards some semblance of human dignity the French government becomes determined to strip them of it, with the film covering just a fraction of the police brutality.
One thing the film makes apparent is that the volunteers are not officially recognised NGO responders, they are everyday people who could not look on and do nothing. Normally a documentary would credit a speaker with their profession or relevant expertise, in this case almost everyone involved is simply credited with their forename and their nationality, for example, ‘Liz, UK’. These volunteers radically jump between roles as carpenters, care workers, and even firefighters as needs necessitate, and we see the struggles they face and overcome. One of the more interesting aspects of the film is that as time goes on and they begin to reflect on their work, they begin to question the value of their compassionate acts, as they become more futile against the power of the state and the desperation of the refugees grows.
On Our Doorstep is a moving and compassionate inside look into the lives of refugees and the daily struggles they face. It highlights the essential work done by volunteers to provide the help that the British and French governments refuse to. If the representation of refugees in the mainstream media were closer to this documentary then the UK population would have a harder time ignoring the ongoing monstrous state violence against them.