Journalist at the Danish newspaper Politiken and author. Has published two books: Sønner af mænd (2015) and Muhamedaneren (2011). He works with political and social subjects in debates and focuses on immigration and integration.

Tarek recommends…

Shapeshifters by Sophie Vuković

There’s a great scene in the beginning of Sophie Vukovićs ‘Shapeshifters’, which encapsulates the conflict in the film. The instructor sits with his mother, explaining that she sees himself as an individual and nothing else. She does not understand why her daughter feels like an immigrant. To this responds Sophie Vuković aptly that it is not about what she feels, but how others perceive her.

The instructor must again and again justify and explain his background and presence – an alienating process that other ‘native Swedes’ are exempt from. Questions that she has dealt with in different manners since the family left the former Yugoslavia, travelled to Australia and eventually ended up in Sweden. But what do these questions do to one’s sense of self as a citizen? How does this affect one’s identity and sense of belonging?

That is partly what ‘shapeshifters’ is about. It is best described as a cinematic essay about being in the ‘non-space’ between inside and outside the minority. The double consciousness that arises from being in that space forces you to see yourself through other people’s eyes.

Shapeshifters does not offer a resounding redemption. Sophie Vuković will never reach ‘home’ where all her attempts to escape – to quote the Egyptian author Nagiub Maehfouz – cease. Such a ‘home’ does not exist – at least not as a country or place. The only thing she might find peace in, is this non-space that we, according to the director, have no language for yet.

Vuković has written and directed an important documentary for anyone who is interested in identity, nationality and belonging. The instructor demonstrates through conversations with his father and mother, childhood memories and poetic im- and export from the journey ‘back’ to the ‘motherland’, that out of experiences with the double gaze also may arise new, critical and creative culture stories about being an insider and outsider at the same time.

Read more about the film here

Tarek Omar | Author and Journalist