The Journey from Syria: a Documentary by Matthew Cassel

If you didn’t watch Matthew Cassel’s powerful six-part documentary on what the 3000+ kilometer journey from Syria to Europe is/was typically like, you really should catch up. You won’t read a headline or view a photo of the refugee crisis quite the same way again.

Cassel follows Aboud Shalhoub, a Syrian jeweler he met in Instanbul, on his 2015 journey from Turkey to Greece and up the Balkan route through central Europe and eventually to his new life in the Netherlands. The series, produced by Field of Vision in collaboration with The New Yorker, takes place over the better part of a year.

Cassel discusses the work, and his place within it, in an interview published on the Field of Vision website:

Q: It’s one thing to have an intimacy with Aboud, with whom you wound up spending many months, but during that journey there seems to have been an incredible ease between you and the rest of the emigres as well. The camera just seems to be there.

Cassel: This is how I feel journalism should really be done. You feel like you’re actually practicing real journalism when you can be so close to people as opposed to just getting a sound bite. I completely immersed myself in this group of people and followed them. What helped the camera disappear for the group is that I was doing the trip, just as they were. Sure, I’m an American, I have all kinds of privilege, and my motivations for doing the trip were not the same motivations they had. I’m not trying to claim in any way that I was one of them. But in a sense I was, because I was going through the same hardships that they were. We were sleeping together in farmlands, we were bathing in rivers together, we were getting food from gas stations and were worried about getting arrested by police. I think some people were skeptical of me, but for the core of the group, and the group that I spent a lot of time with, I just became one of the travelers in their group, and I happened to have a camera with me.

The six episodes are below.

Episode 1: The Journey from Syria: No Choice

Episode 2: The Journey from Syria: By Air or By Land?

Episode 3: The Journey from Syria: The Balkans Trek


Episode 4: The Journey from Syria: Welcome to the E.U.

Episode 5: The Journey from Syria: Reunion

Episode 6: The Journey from Syria: The Backlash




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