War leaves behind not only the tragedy of countless innocent deaths but also the painful stories of the survivors. Hence, those who had the chance to escape the conflagration by taking refuge in other countries did not really flee from the atrocities. This is because the war ends up being a state of mind but also an often-shameful stigma for migrants in their attempt to integrate into the new country. Still, not all migrants have problems adapting; on the contrary, they manage to reconfigure a new route, making new friends, and finding new reasons to hope for a better future. ‘The Deportation of a Model Citizen‘ depicts a day in the life of Aida, a young woman originally from Syria who is forced by the Danish government to leave her new adoptive country. Drawing inspiration from real events, director Jacob Thomas Pilgaard implicitly exposes not only a fragment of the misfortunes of those whose second chance is denied but also, in a subtextual way, the extremist prejudices of those for whom the terms “Syrian” and “terrorist” are synonyms.
And yet, beyond these unfair prejudices, the wave of refugee deportations, under the pretext that Syria is a safe country, represents a concrete event expressing another perhaps much more painful reality: the total absence of empathy from those who could make a change. Despite the simplicity of the story chosen by the director, his project hides an extremely complex social message. But it is precisely this narrative essentialization that makes the short film avoid any ostentatious militant attempt. Ultimately, Aida’s drive to the airport, as she bids farewell to the people and places that have given her understanding and warmth, is a bitter manifesto of how war manages to dehumanize even those who enjoy the comfort of the West where they were born.
Jacob Thomas Pilgaard’s short film is like a cold shower that strikes insidiously as it presents an insight into the “invisible war” that “civilized” Europe, waging against those who demand a second chance at normality. Crafted with professionalism and a refined sense of observation, ‘The Deportation of a Model Citizen’ is a necessary project in the context of an apparently globalized world that interposes new boundaries between “us” and “the others”.
For the well-calculated depth with which it approaches an immediate delicate subject and for its indisputable cinematic quality, ‘The Deportation of a Model Citizen’ was awarded with the Film of the Month distinction in the December 2022 edition of TMFF.