In 2015, artist Amel Alzakout filmed her journey from Syria to Berlin with a small camera for Khaled Abdulwahed who was waiting her there. When the boat taking Alzakout and 300 other refugees from Turkey to Greece sank on the way across the sea, the camera in Alzakout’s hand kept on filming, accidentally recording the moments of horror.
Alzakout and Abdulwahed used the material to make Purple Sea, an unforgettable, experimental piece of cinematic art. It is also documentary film in its most extreme and purest form. Alzakout was not actively filming, the camera was tied to her wrist when the boat sank. There is nothing calculated about the images, the camera has merely recorded the surrounding reality. Watching it is like witnessing the camera’s memory of the events. The film manages to show something that is beyond words.
Most of the time, the camera is submerged. It is deceptively calm underwater – the sounds are muted, the images abstract. Only legs floating in the water, the orange of the life jackets, and the camera’s brief visits to the surface show flashes of the surrounding chaos. The images are framed by Alzakout’s narration, going through moments in her life, slowly arriving to the film’s present.
42 of the passengers of the crowded boat did not make it through the accident. The survivors had to wait for help in their life jackets in the water, for hours. The film takes us to the core of the tragedy, the experience of a moment near death. A point of view that has been made invisible. To fates, that we numbly read about on the news. As an experience, Purple Sea is completely unique, earth-shattering, and hypnotic.