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'Eldorado' filmmaker reveals why he had to use spy cameras to film the refugee crisis documentary

'Eldorado' filmmaker reveals why he had to use spy cameras to film the refugee crisis documentary
"Eldorado" director Markus Imhoof, center, with Los Angles Times critic Lorraine Ali, left, and Muna Sharif of Amnesty International, right, at the LA Times Envelope Live screening at the Montalban. (Ana Venegas / For The Times)

Immigration issues have dominated headlines in the U.S. for much of the Trump administration, but the plight of migrants and refugees stretches far beyond the American borders.

The Swiss documentary "Eldorado" examines just that — looking at the European migrant crisis specifically in countries such as Lebanon, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and other areas along the Mediterranean Sea.

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"When we look specifically at the scope of the United States and what has been accepted into the United States, as of a couple of years ago, it was only thousands of people that were brought in and we're seeing that number decrease," Amnesty International USA field organizer Muna Sharif said at a recent Envelope Live screening of the film.

"This xenophobia that has been spreading as part of the narrative is causing countries like Germany and Italy and Switzerland to close their borders and not welcome refugees and not allow people to apply for asylum so it's only adding to the problem."

Amnesty International USA field organizer Muna Sharif shares some startling facts and puts some perspective on the current refugee crisis.

Sharif was joined by the film's director, Markus Imhoof, at the screening, which was held at the Montalban in Hollywood. The screening was followed by a conversation with Times critic Lorraine Ali in which Imhoof went into detail about his personal story behind the film — an encounter during World War II with an Italian refugee child named Giovanna.

"In the beginning, I was too shy to show it. I wanted to hide it because it's my personal love story," he said.

Imhoof then found old letters as well as a doll that brought his relationship with Giovanna back to the surface. "With the help of my friend I then opened my heart, so it grew more during the shooting into the film," he said. "So for me, it's kind of an emotional bridge to the theme."

'Eldorado' director Markus Imhoof talks about how his own personal life story became a central story in the film.

Another challenge Imhoof faced during filming was getting access to the camps. "It was very difficult. It took months and months to go get the permission for every single step," he said. "And then they gave me 2 ½ hours to shoot and only because of the migrants, the refugees starting to shout and to interact — we couldn't go out because it took longer because we have to listen to them."

To film in the ghettos where the workers live, Imhoof had to use small spy cameras. "This was difficult because these people are ashamed that they are living there," he said. "They are all hoping that they will succeed and if they would show where they live, it's a big shame for them."

'Eldorado' director Markus Imhoof talks about gaining access to the refugee camps and the shame the people feel if their families were to see their living conditions.

However, despite the terrible living conditions these migrants and refugees face, it remains cheaper for the countries to deny them asylum and then hire them to work illegally. One such example is the Mitsubishi factory in Italy.

"Mitsubishi is working with these slave labors, and everybody knows, and its much cheaper than if they would have to pay normal salaries," Imhoof said.

"Eldorado" director Markus Imhoof discusses how it's more economical for countries to deny refugees asylum and instead use them as cheap slave labor.

For more information on future Envelope Live screenings and events, click here.

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