The tranquil Greek island of Lesbos is only 4.1 miles from the Turkish coast. For this reason- a geographic detail- this island has become the scene of a critical link in the refugee crisis story: the destination for thousands of Syrians and Middle-Eastern refugees who dare to make the perilous crossing.
Greek documentary filmmaker, Daphne Matziaraki, who lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area, returned home to Greece in the fall of 2015 to film this story.
Her film, "4.1 miles" records, in graphic detail, what most of us have only heard about but can't hardly being to imagine.
The film was nominated for a 2017 Academy Award.
In an interview, Matziaraki explained that this humanitarian crisis involves more than one side. The Greek people- who, as the saying goes, have no horse in this race, are being severely tested as well.
Regardless of the hardship Greeks have endured from the financial crisis, for a long time my home country has by and large been a peaceful, safe and easy place to live. But now Greece is facing a new crisis, one that threatens to undo years of stability, as we struggle to absorb the thousands of desperate migrants who pour across our borders every day. A peak of nearly 5,000 entered Greece each day last year, mainly fleeing conflicts in the Middle East.
I followed a coast guard captain for three weeks as he pulled family after family, child after child, from the ocean and saved their lives. All the ones in this film were shot on a single day, October 28, 2015. Two additional rescues happened that same day but were not included.
Matziaraki's film poses difficult questions for everybody, at least for people with a sense of empathy.
And it raises questions about our collective responsibility — the choices we all make for ourselves, and for others. We don’t all confront the refugee crisis with the same immediacy as the coast guard captain portrayed here. But as our world becomes more interconnected, and more violent, we do all face a choice — would we act as he does, to save the life of stranger? Or would we turn away?Here is her short but riveting film.