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We Stay Here

average rating is 3 out of 5


Patrick Foley


Posted on:

Dec 12, 2022

Film Reviews
We Stay Here
Directed by:
Vinit Parmar
Written by:
Vinit Parmar
Kristin Frohnapfel, Vinit Parmar

Documentarian Vinit Parmar immerses himself in the lives of refugee children living in Berlin in We Stay Here, an intimate examination of how a struggling immigration system fails those it is meant to protect, and how even in the most difficult circumstances, children deserve a place to grow up in peace.


The film takes place largely in a refugee home run by Kristin Frohnapfel, a centre manager doing all she can to keep the shelter habitable whilst acting as childminder for over a hundred families. Children of different ages, backgrounds and origins, who are at differing stages of their asylum hearing receive individual focus. As they navigate the simple trials of childhood, the growing right-wing movement against refugees is featured – which along with the squalid site in which they currently live, demonstrates the dangers of the world they may one day face.


We Stay Here is a formless documentary – existing as a pure account of a snapshot into the lives of Berlin’s refugee children. For the majority of the film, the director neglects to frame the footage he has captured with any agenda or story. As the children’s families circumnavigate legal appeals that could literally mean life or death, the film instead documents the children as they play, laugh, cry, fight and undergo the same trials of any child born in the borders of the country they reside in. Whilst the message is not made explicit, it is clear. And in how the director steps back, it is even more powerful.


This is the film’s ultimate strength – so much so that the later inclusion of news footage of far-right, neo-Nazi demonstrations actually manage to feel forced. It may be that most audiences who watch the film will be well aware of the concerning rise of hate-groups across Europe, but the film feels more powerful with this as a silent, tragic undercurrent than as something that is explicitly shown. A scene from which the film takes its title – in which a clear parallel is drawn between a gang of skinheads and a group of the refugee girls – just about avoids triteness due to this, and either a stronger focus on the right-wing elements of modern Germany, or leaving this as a totally silent or hinted-at menace may have served the documentary better than what feels like an unresolved, half-hearted coverage.


Kristin Frohnapfel is the only adult perspective the audience truly receive, and her complex, difficult role is handled with sensitivity and respect by the director. She does communicate with the camera outside of the children’s view, but matches their ignorance of its presence when performing her role. Audiences will sympathise with her for what is a challenging task, and gain an appreciation for those who work tirelessly in service of those in need. The documentary’s conclusion does initially appear to misrepresent her departure from the centre for dramatic effect – omitting a key piece of information to create a sense of further abandonment on which the film initially ends – prior to a coda. It seems somewhat of an unfair framing of how Kristin’s time with the children ends, and leads to a strange emotional beat.


We Stay Here is a brave and admirable film, though one that is not without its flaws. However, the key to its success is the emotional bond viewers will form with its subjects. The director deserves major credit for his wisdom in recognising this – and allowing the film to float on an emotional and authentic wave.

About the Film Critic
Patrick Foley
Patrick Foley
Digital / DVD Release, Documentary, Indie Feature Film, World Cinema
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