‘Winning awards is very nice, but our real success is changing people’

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Interview with alumni Albert Escuder and Joan Girbau, who have won awards for their documentary Faraway Land

‘Winning awards is very nice, but our real success is changing people’

Alumni Albert Escuder, producer, and Joan Girbau, director of photography, are behind the award-winning documentary Faraway Land. It reveals the condition refugees in Athens live in through a humane and hopeful lens. A very personal project that has earned them several awards, such as Best National Feature Film and Best Cinematography from the Madrid Film Festival. The film was recently released at the box-office in Cines Girona and was also presented at the Gaudí Awards. We talk to them about the path that has led them here.

What was your time at UIC Barcelona like?

It helped us to discover our vocation and passion for communicating worthwhile stories. They were four years we remember fondly, where we grew and learnt the basics that have allowed us to develop professionally and that have helped us to understand the power of audiovisual communication in today’s world.

After those four years of classes and university projects, what where your first steps in the working world like?

Honestly, the first months after finishing our degree were quite tough. University life is very nice, and when we moved into professional work, the world was our oyster. We faced questions such as: “How do I continue my path from now on? What is the next step? Where do I want my professional career to lead me? What is my purpose in this world?”.

And how have you found answers to all of these questions?

With time, some questions have resolved themselves and others we still carry in our hearts, waiting for life to reveal the answers.

In the end we have found the answers in reality itself: the summer I finished university I met a disabled guy. I was surprised that I became fascinated with how he lived with such a difficult condition; how happy he was. This led to the first project we did together: the documentary of his life, called Rodando al destino.

Your first big challenge...

We did the full production of Rodando al destino —with material help from UIC Barcelona and our dear Oscar Sueiro—, we released it in several cinemas in Spain, Italy, England, Germany, the US, etc. As a result of this free documentary, we got our first clients who requested videos for their businesses. From then until now our career has consisted of pulling the thread of life and facing the things that it has placed in front of us, until opening our own audiovisual digital agency.

How did the idea to produce the second documentary, Faraway Land, come about?

One of the spectators of Rodando al destino was Bea Jiménez, who volunteered at a refugee camp in Athens in 2016. She realised that the reality that the media was communicating regarding the refugees’ situation was very different to what she found there. They were forgetting to explain the most fundamental part of the whole issue: the humane aspect. She got in touch with us to explain what she experienced and we welcomed her idea with enthusiasm.

It was clear from the start.

We had no doubts that it was worth showing the world this new perspective: the relationship that develops between refugees and volunteers. A humane relationship becomes a source of hope both for the refugees and the volunteers, as well as for Europe itself.

Tell us what the production process was like.

We made these projects on our days off, on weekends and in our spare time, because day-to-day we make digital marketing campaigns and videos for our clients. Therefore, we have dedicated our free time to finding the technical team, holding Skype meetings, working on what we wanted to tell and how we were going to do it.

Did you have trouble financing the documentary?

As with any low-budget audiovisual project, the difficulties we had were related to a lack of resources. We had a successful crowdfunding campaign and also found a foundation who funded us. This allowed us to cover production costs. In addition, we were lucky enough to have a great team both at a professional and humane level with plenty of creativity who knew how to work together and fill these gaps.

Did you think it would be so successful?

For us, beyond the awards we have won and those that could come, the real success is that the documentary changes those who see it. In the end, this is our goal. Winning awards is very nice, but our real success is changing people.

During the talks after the screenings, the best thing is when they ask us how they can help, where they can become volunteers, etc. Or the messages we have received.

What takeaway would you like the public to get after seeing your documentary?

That the refugees’ ultimate need is the same as the need that each of us have. You can live on a battlefield or have an ideal life, but the human heart always wants the same thing: to feel accepted, loved, less alone, forgiven.