EXCLUSIVE: Egyptian-American filmmaker Sam Abbas, whose previous work includes ground-breaking films The Wedding and Alia’s Birth, has teased the first footage for his upcoming film Obstaculum exploring the migrant crisis.
Abbas spent more than a year researching migrant squats across Paris and decided to make a film exploring the human implication of these illegal occupations from the side of both the migrants and the police.
The film focuses on an incident in which 400 people, hailing from the Ivory Coast, Gambia, Senegal, Sudan, Chad, Eritrea, and Ethiopia, attempted to occupy an abandoned school building in Paris as they sought shelter from freezing conditions.
Abbas wants to immerse audiences in the experiences of both the people seeking shelter and the police. The first footage shows people laden with belongings, some with children and babies on their backs, as they try to break into the building.
“There’s currently a massive issue with migrant housing in France that needs to be addressed. There are far too many migrants with nowhere to stay. Paris has become the epicentre of the migrant experience – with squats, regardless of condition, becoming the ultimate safe haven,” says Abbas.
“Having first-handedly witnessed multiple building occupations, both successful and unsuccessful, I felt the urgent need to share the journey of an occupation to shine light on the subject matter.”
The film, shot by Sam Abbas, is self-produced via his company Maxxie, Suzzee & Cinema. French actor Edward Akrout (Rodin, Alia’s Birth) serves as the film’s narrator.
Abbas made waves with his 2018 LGBT-themed The Wedding, for which he organized under the radar screenings in places like Turkey, Tunisia, Lebanon, and Egypt, where it is illegal and/or difficult to identify as gay or nonbinary.
His second feature Alia’s Birth also hit the headlines for a dramatic scene showing a neonatal resuscitation. He released a complementary short titled Marie about home birth labor which hit over four million views across various platforms.
Abbas also acted as curator, director, editor, and producer for the 2021 documentary Eremita (Anthologies) where he teamed with leading cinematographers from around the world.
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