With the candid, provoking feature-length documentary Warehoused, from Life Is My Movie Entertainment, I was not only reminded of the power of the non-fiction genre, but once again lucky enough to gain further insight into parts of the world we still somehow take for granted. Directed by Vincent Vittorio and Asher Emmanuel, Warehoused gets straight to the point, without any kind of imposing choke-hold, with an opening title sequence that kind of acts as an informative montage, almost a newsreel of rapid historical background. A timeline of our venues. From the comfort of our seats, we’re in Sudan. Afghanistan. Welcome to Dadaab, Kenya.
Staggeringly, just a tiny 0.1% of the 12 million or so people dwelling in refugee camps across the world find home resettlement or mainstream society integration every year. The focus of Warehoused is Dadaab, Kenya, one of the world’s largest refugee camps, sharing the problems that live among the poverty-stricken people in many, many other countries globally. Spending quality time with the individuals whose lives are directly involved in the plight of the asylum seekers, unable to just work, and have an income, often be without family, the documentary also features the key roles played by the likes of UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), and such agency workers. A home, and the freedom of a a simple, essential component of life for you and me, is a tough reality to establish for many of those depicted here.
A hefty part of the limited curriculum portrayed in Warehoused is that of the refugee’s place and entitlement in the world. A Kenyan refugee camp, over-crowded, under-nourished, tired. Even surrounded by the beauty of the landscape’s color palette, these poor folk have to contend with very little on their plate – actually, and metaphorically. For those that bury their head in their privileged sand, whether intentional or not, could do to pay attention. Using some defined, dynamic animation to describe the struggles, Warehoused shows the upbringing of one of the narrators, and we ought not to forget that this is indeed not just a tale to be told over and over. This is happening, even now.
Many of us have not participated in the civil war in Somalia, for example, we huff and puff if we have to wait in line at the bank, turn away food if it has too much salt, consider it rude if someone doesn’t give up their seat for you on the bus. We don’t know how good we have it. Still. The people of Dadaab are seen to be making bricks, so in turn they can earn money to buy books to learn. That kind of grass-roots way of life has an optimism, an enthusiasm, even in those hard times, there is a fresh, practical journey. I was almost envious of their outlook and goals.
When the US Aid food warehouse provide basic rations, we discover that they have to acquire items like shoes, underwear, sugar, also, so they have to sell portions of their own food to get these luxuries. As someone poignantly states, that the price of such things for them is hunger. One girl gets a small job at a local radio station, and there are rarely such opportunities, but it gives the lucky very few the chance to not only gather technical skills, but also to have their voices heard. It occurred to me too that we, the audience, are also privileged to have the subjects of these documentaries speak in English for us. Indeed, we should be grateful for that projection at least. Change doesn’t come within a day, it is declared, and Warehoused is a reminder of the ongoing hardships many parts of the world occupy. Given the living conditions, the village houses built of sticks and stones and sheets in places, the next time I get the good fortune to build a den with my own 5 year-old daughter there’ll be a gratitude and pride a little bit more than before.