Another News Story begins with the image of four figures fleeing in the dead of night. Visible only in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle, we quickly realize the figures are a father walking frantically with his three children. It is 2015, and they are Syrian refugees struggling to find a way into Germany.
On March 20, Concordia’s Cinema Politica affiliate showcased the directorial debut of Orban Wallace. Best known for his work on the visual effects of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” with Another News Story Wallace follows a group of refugees hailing from the Middle East and Africa along their plight. From their arrival on the island of Lesbos, Greece, through their journey into Eastern Europe, and, ultimately, their second homecoming in Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel had promised to open doors to all refugees.
As opposed to other, more typical human-interest pieces, Another News Story delves further into the problem by examining not only the journey of the refugee, but the role of the media during these conflicts. In the height of conflict, the media holds the coveted power of deciding what is worthy of our attention. The relationship between the media and its subject has always been tricky, and journalists have always balanced the fine line between respectful coverage and sensationalism.
Wallace grapples with this relationship by weaving between narratives. There’s Mahasen, a Syrian woman determined to reach Germany so she may be reunited with her children after four long years. The film also follows the community of reporters that has formed during their coverage of the refugee crisis, all of whom camp and travel together—including Bruno and Johnny, a Belgian journalist and cameraman duo.
By chronicling these two stories, Wallace reveals the unique relationship between the modern media and its subjects. As audiences itch for minute-to-minute coverage, journalists must push themselves even further to deliver stories in real time. Journalists are aiming to present more visceral and authentic experiences to share with audiences, eschewing non-biased reporting as they assist migrants to board trains or hop fences.
Unfortunately, Wallace shows that this journalistic intrusion may also lead to the mistreatment of refugees. Though this evolving relationship between journalists and subjects has adapted to the 24-hour news cycle, it has remained morally ambiguous and murky. It’s hard not to feel uneasy as Wallace films white, male European reporters casually smoking and laughing as they are surrounded by the stoic refugees. For the world to see news unfold, in real time, journalists must of course be present—yet this presence can be equally as damaging as it is constructive.
Regardless of whether it is morally right or not, wherever there’s a story, reporters will flock. As the boats landed in Lesbos, hoards of journalists rushed forward, pushing cameras into the faces of wearied and starving refugees. It’s unclear whether their immediate intrusion onto the scene is more exploitative or comiserative. However, as Richard Engel, chief foreign correspondent of NBC News said, “Happiness is universal, but misery, that’s solitary.”
Though it might be ugly, and though it will always be biased, the media will always try and connect viewers to the unique terrors that manifest across the globe. Uneasily, modern viewers must grapple with the dilemma of genuinely wanting to be informed, and watching real-life horrors unfold for their viewing pleasure.