At Home in the World (“Et hjem i verden”, Denmark) by Andreas Koefoed, is a very promising documentary which occupies the spotlights in November. The world premiere was on 5/Nov at CPH:DOX. It was nominated for this year’s Nordic:DOX Award and it’s also on competition for mid-length documentaries at IDFA festival in Amsterdam.

With so much attention to the refugee crisis nowadays, the theme is very actual: Magomed, the main character, and other children from all over the world learn Danish at the Red Cross school in Lynge, DK, while waiting for the results on their asylum cases. A class is followed through a year to try to capture the way these children deal with an uncertain future while still dwelling on a painful past. The school is an instrument for integration and rehabilitation, a tool to bring their attention to the present and minimize the constant fear of losing their families again.

There’s something poetic about the way the director presents the daily routine of the kids at school: the interaction between them, their sadness, shyness and aggression, in contrast with small acts of kindness and images of the landscape gives a sense of beauty mixed with strong feelings, louder than words. An atmosphere of optimism prevails albeit the severity of the situation. These short lives, full of bravery and willingness to carry on, are quite an inspiration.

Andreas, who studied sociology and anthropology, has been interested in telling stories through the eyes of children also on his previous films, like Albert’s Winter. In a short interview, the director spoke about the professional and personal challenges he found during the film process. Although interested in showing their stories and thoughts, he was also concerned about their psychological welfare, traumas and wounds that should be respected and  protected. Another challenge was the possible misuse of the film for getting some sort of advantage with their asylum cases, as one could perceive during a talk between Magomed and his father. It’s a disturbing scene that gives us a clear impression of their level of desperation and willingness to try out all resources at hand to be allowed residence.

In this sense, Andreas made a clear choice of images above words to present the story of those kids that are, above all, fragile humans. What does it take to make new friends, to feel secure again, to hope for a better future? How does it feel to be at a new home in the world?

Emma Vestrheim

Emma Vestrheim is the editor-in-chief of Cinema Scandinavia. Originally from Australia, she is now based in Bergen, Norway, and attends major Nordic film festivals to conduct interviews and review new films.