Kastro is a respected activist figure with a long presence in humanitarian and civil rights battles behind him. He was born in Syria where he spent his younger years in but has since left and been living for almost 30 years in Greece. It pains him being estranged from his homeland and living a safe life while his friends and relatives are getting killed in Syria.
Set against the turbulent atmosphere of the refugee-ridden island of Lesbos, Citizen Xenos is a feature length documentary exploring the intense life changes of refugees, volunteers and locals in the middle of the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time. The film illustrates themes of loss, separation, relocation and resettlement through “slices of life” realism and captivating cinematic imagery. Each person’s perspective and emotional state in the story is unconsciously connected by the concept of “Xenos”: someone feeling like a stranger, unwelcome or different be it in a foreign land, his own land or his own skin.
Xenos: Greek for stranger, guest, enemy, an interpretation as ambiguous and relative to the various perspectives on issues of the current refugee surge in western societies.
The film follows the intimate stories of estranged refugees and their receivers as they depend upon each other’s humanity through a journey of relocation and social integration.
On the Greek island of Lesbos a grandmother, wanted by the Syrian Regime, travels with her traumatized granddaughter aiming to claim family reunification in Germany. A fleeing family decides to settle on the island that received them, having the first migrant child to enroll in a Greek school, while an unsympathetic villager shares a fence with a newly built Muslim cemetery. A globe-trotting mercenary working as a safety manager in the municipal camp offers a brutally candid tour of the living conditions, bureaucratic process and future perspectives of refugees. A Syrian activist living in Greece for 35 years moves to the island to offer housing and care to refugee families, while dealing with the emotional strain of the role he’s undertaken. A teenage barber living in a school squat in the center of Athens, aided by a theater performer, re-enacts his memories of captivity by ISIS and the journey away from war.
The world stands witness to the biggest refugee crisis in recent history with the total number of forcibly displaced people reaching 60 million, the highest level since World War II. Residents of many countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa are fleeing persecution, poverty, civil conflicts and war while a fractured Europe struggles to respond. As per the UNHCR, 856.723 migrants arrived by sea in Greece during 2015 and another 173,450 in 2016.
In 2016, another 173,450 crossed the Aegean Sea amidst cold temperatures and strong winds. Most of them entered the country via the island of Lesbos.
Henry is a mercenary figure that has experienced life and work in some of the most hard and dangerous places in the world. He’s Dutch but considers himself a Frenchman after having lived there for almost 40 years. He has experienced first-hand the ghettoization of minorities in Paris and warns on the dangers of turning today’s refugees into the terrorists of tomorrow by rejecting them from society, keeping them over long periods in isolated camps and providing poor or no integration.
Mona is an 8-year-old girl travelling with her grandmother, aiming to reach Germany and claim reunification with the rest of her family. Wanted by the Syrian Regime, her grandmother “Myriam” as she calls herself, was a leading figure in her war-torn city Homs, risking her life to bring food and medicines to civilian population.
Demetrios is an old citizen raised by the values and beliefs of religion, nationalism and patriarchy. As such values start to fade away in modern societies, he feels violated and offended by the creation of a Muslim cemetery next to his property. For him it symbolizes the invasion of extreme and potentially dangerous religious values from the Muslim world to the western societies.