A teacher tells recently arrived migrants in a refugee camp in Sicily three different stories about their future in Fortress Europe. In this debut film by Guido Hendrikx, the opening film at IDFA 2016, we are faced with the absurd dilemmas of Europe’s immigration issue.
In a classroom in Sicily, just inside the walls of Fortress Europe, recently arrived migrants are being taught by a teacher (actor Valentijn Dhaenens) who exhibits some very odd behaviour. One moment he mercilessly rejects them, the next he soothingly embraces them. By means of a mathematical formula, he uses calculations to explain to his ‘students’ how expensive refugees are for European taxpayers. He wants to show that it is simply financially impossible to take them into society and that they therefore have to return to wherever they came from. With the next group, he has a far more positive message, welcoming them with open arms. With the third group of students, he keeps strictly to the rules, demonstrating the harsh reality of the Dutch immigration laws.
On the cutting edge of documentary and fiction, Stranger in Paradise takes a closer look at the power relations between Europe and migrants. Europe is embodied by a master who pulls this class into his own despair. A strict plea, a guilt-ridden welcoming word, and the policy-shaped compromise in between: Stranger in Paradise is a merciless cinematic essay on how Europe is dealing with the desire for happiness of the other.