Open water Stijn Verhoeff

None Photo: Aad Hoogendoorn

Open water is a quiet meditation on the refugee crisis in fortress Europe, and specifically Europe’s distanced and dissociated response to the horrors taking place in its borderlands. The short film starts with a back view of two men from a distance as they walk towards the horizon in an open and seemingly endless seascape. While walking, they have a casual talk about the future of the news and the different forms it could take. One of them starts to hypothetically imagine a piece of news projected as a hologram in their living rooms. To visualise this to his companion, he describes the visual details of the scene and what he sees in that three-dimensional depiction. The description doesn’t specify where they are or what exactly is happening, but soon it becomes clear they are witnessing a sinking ship and passengers drowning. In contrast to what we are used to in today’s forms of news and headlines, the pragmatic details are left out. Instead, viewers of the news are exposed to the “real-time” emotional and physical experience of drowning people, as if they are engaged in and witnessing this tragedy firsthand. How can imagination establish empathy towards global atrocities? And what effect would that experience bring about?