Cinematographer Ted Willis recently released a mini documentary, When Refugee Camps Are Full, Take One Home, about the refugee crisis in France. Willis follows a gay couple, Cristophe and Armand, who decide, in their own way, to make an impact through hosting a gay refugee, Louis.
We interviewed Willis about how he made the doc and what he learned about the trauma that LGBTQ+ refugees are facing. Take a look at the film, then read our interview below.
OUT: What made you decide to go to France to make a doc about these refugees?
Ted Willis: I was hearing a lot about the refugee crisis in the news but most of the stories seemed so two dimensional. I wanted to learn from people actually being impacted first hand. There were stories of hope out there. I just wanted to uncover them.
How did you find Louis, Cristophe, and Armand?
The way I connected with these guys is actually really cool. As I was hunting for stories of hope in the midst of difficulty, I was using the website Couchsurfing.net to find places to stay. Armand reached out to me on there. He told me he and his boyfriend, Christophe, were hosting a refugee whose story I should hear. Soon, we met over wine and foie gras, where I finally heard their experience.
What did you learn from this crisis and the people involved that maybe didn’t show up in the doc?
There are so many nuances I wasn't able to touch on. Most notably is the plight of LGBQT+ refugees. These men and women are the vulnerable of the most marginalized people. Often they have fled their homes because of their sexuality. They escape to Europe only to find themselves in camps surrounded by other refugees that discriminate against them. They're pushed to the fringe of the fringe.
What do you hope for viewers to get out of it?
I hope viewers will see just how powerful hospitality can be. Each individual in the West has the choice to be welcoming to migrants in need. It'd be great if people are inspired to host but simply welcoming foreigners into community can dramatically change lives.
Are you still in touch with Louis, Armand, and Cristophe? If so, how are they doing now?
I am! They are doing great. Christophe and Armand still love to travel and Louis is continuing to live with them. Louis was able to go back to school this year where he is studying sales. They are all connected with the community of activists working to help LGBTQ+ refugees in France.
Is there anything else you'd like to say about the project or the crisis that I didn't ask about?
It is easy to see this as an "over there" issue but it really is global community issue. We all have the opportunity and responsibility to be welcoming advocates to those expelled from their homes because of violence or persecution.