This trailer for a forthcoming documentary film is based on an interview conducted in October 2016 with Samee Ullah, a Pakistani refugee in Berlin who acted in the play Letters Home developed by Refugee Club Impulse.
In the interview, Samee Ullah, an aircraft mechanic, describes how he came from Pakistan to seek asylum in Germany in 2013. In the early days he was living in a refugee shelter in the Spandau area of Berlin and by law was only allowed to remain in the local area and not allowed to work and unable to learn German. With nothing to do, he participated in theatrical activities in the refugee centre and acted in a performance of Do Butterflies Have Borders? After this project, the refugees formed their own organisation called Refugee Club Impulse and developed a new play, Letters Home, which was successfully performed at the Kulturen der Welt in November 2014 and YAAM in March 2015, and later toured to the Maxim Gorki, Schaubühne and other venues. The success of this theatre piece led to the formation of a campaign for refugees called “My Right is Your Right”, which Samee coordinated. The campaign attracted the support of all the major theatre companies in Berlin (the Schaubühne, the Maxim Gorki, the Deutsches Theater, the Volksbühne, Grips, Ballhause Naunynstrasse and Parkaue), and for the international day against racism, it organised a demonstration and carnival (with floats decorated by the theatres), attracting thousands of participants. Unfortunately, the press condemned the demonstration as “anti-semitic” because it included pro-Palestinian organisations, and this caused the Refugee Club Impulse to lose a potential grant of 100,000 euros as well as a major prize for their work. In frustration with what he considered to be unfair press reportage, Samee left the theatre group and the campaign to help form a new theatre group called Club Al-Hakawati. In the interview Samee accuses the big state theatres of having used him and the refugee movement for their own purposes, rather than defending him when he was charged with anti-semitism.
Steve Wilmer is Professor Emeritus of Drama at Trinity College, Dublin, and a Research Fellow at the Research Centre for “Interweaving Performance Cultures” at the Freie Universität Berlin. He co-edited (with Audronė Žukauskaitė) Resisting Biopolitics: Philosophical, Political and Performative Strategies (Routledge 2016) and Deleuze and Beckett (Palgrave Macmillan 2015). He also edited a special issue of Nordic Theatre Studies called “Theatre and the Nomadic Subject,” in 2015. He is currently writing a book called “Performing Statelessness” for Palgrave Macmillan.