Towards a Participatory Approach: Reversing the Gaze when (re)presenting Refugees in nonfiction film

  • Rand Beiruty Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF


Living in Germany during the peak of the “refugee crisis”, I was bombarded with constant reporting on the topic that clearly put forth a problematic representation of refugees, contributing to rendering them a ‘problem’ and the situation a ‘crisis’. This reflects in my own film practice in which I am frequently engaging with Syrian refugees as protagonists. Our shared language and culture made it easier for us to form a connection. However, as a young filmmaker, I felt challenged and conflicted by the complexities of the ethics of representation, especially when making a film with someone who’s going through a complex institutionalized

In this paper I explore how reflecting on my position within the filmmaking process affected my relationship with my film participants and how this reflection influenced my choice of documentary film form. In order to do that, I use what Chapman and Sawchuk (2012) refer to as “Research-from-Creation’’ where research data is generated through the production of, in this case, a short documentary titled Nudar.

Author Biography

Rand Beiruty, Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF

After obtaining her MA degree in Media Arts from Bauhaus University Weimar, Beiruty is currently pursuing a practice-based PhD from Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF. She is an alumna of Berlinale Talents, Beirut Talents, Film Leader Incubator Asia, Documentary Campus, Locarno Documentary School and Ji.hlava Academy. She was nominated for the Robert Bosch Film Prize in 2018 and 2020. Beiruty won the ESP Jury Prize for the International Script Pitch at Interfilm Berlin 2016 for her short animation Encountering Samir and the Tribeca Film Institute IF/Then Pitch Competition at CPH: DOX, 2017 for her short documentary Nudar. She’s now developing her first feature documentary titled Tell Them About Us that won the best pitch at Empfang der Filmhochschulen 2020.