In this warmly humane documentary, three generations of one resourceful Syrian family head for Germany on foot
‘You’re skinny. I’ll feed you falafel for a month when you get here.” A Syrian teenager stranded in a refugee camp near the Greece-Macedonia border is video chatting with her cousin who’s made it to Berlin in this humane, extremely watchable documentary that follows three generations of one family as they leave the camp on foot carrying all their belongings on a 3,000km journey to Germany. First they were bombed out of Aleppo, everything they had stolen by war. Now they must sneak across Europe like thieves.
The star of show is “uncle Guevara”, Abdallah Nabi – the group’s de facto leader. Guevara is a charismatic guy in his early 30s equipped with a bandana and restless energy. A student in Aleppo when war broke out, he became an activist, filming the regime’s bomb attacks on the city. Now, as the family wade through rivers, he spends most of his time dissuading the others from phoning smugglers – who make big bucks from empty promises of a safe passage to Germany for 800 euros a person.
As the world’s attention drifts away from the refugee crisis, Sky and Ground has a conscience-prodding effect. And it works because more than anything it’s portrait of a family who are funny, full of warmth and possess a miraculous ability to rustle up a cheese and pitta feast on the side of a hill. There’s an ongoing joke about tossing little cousin Rita’s cuddly toy in the bin; they’re down to survival basics, so how on earth is she still carrying a fluffy pink dog?
In Germany, Guevara’s brothers chew their nails, tracking the slow progress on GPS with their mobiles. In this Berlin footage, the TV tower pokes up out of the skyline like a modern Statue of Liberty welcoming the tired – if only they can get there.