This Powerful Video On Refugees Will Make You Cry In Less Than 4 Minutes

It’s long been said that the eyes are the window to the soul. Perhaps this is why many of us are so reluctant to make eye contact with strangers — we don’t want to give away too much.

But maybe we should give it a shot more often, the results might change our lives.

Twenty years ago, psychologist Arthur Aron discovered that when people stare into each others eyes for just four minutes without looking away, it has the potential to bring them much closer, and could even make them fall in love.

In a video produced by Amnesty International Poland and the Polish ad agency DDB&Tribal, recently arrived refugees from Syria and Somalia looked deep into the eyes of people from Belgium, Italy, Germany, Poland and the UK. What followed was incredible, and will definitely bring you to tears.

This experiment was not staged and the people were complete strangers, but after just a few moments of uninterrupted eye contact they acted as if they were old friends.

The video, which is called “Look Beyond Borders,” was filmed in a warehouse in Berlin, a city with its own history of war, strife, suffering and division. It also happens to be the capital of the European country that’s most welcoming to refugees.

At a time when refugees are widely viewed with suspicion and treated with disdain, it’s vital to remind people of their common humanity and breed connections across the arbitrary lines we’ve drawn across the world. This was exactly what the producers of this video hoped to accomplish.

As Draginja Nadadin, Director of Amnesty International Poland, put it,

We decided to conduct a simple experiment during which refugees and Europeans sat across from each other and looked each other in the eyes. We recorded these very human encounters and the short film speaks for itself. People from different continents who have literally never set eyes on each other before come away feeling an amazing connection.

It takes a heart of stone to watch this video without shedding a tear. Today, when the world appears rife with division and conflict, it is always worthwhile to look at everything from another person’s perspective. Too often, what gets lost in the numbers and headlines is the suffering of actual people, who, like us, have families, friends, their own stories, dreams and goals. What if we stopped for just a moment and looked at who they really are?

Borders exist between countries, not people. And it is imperative that our governments start putting people before borders and their own short-term political gain.

We are witnessing the worst refugee crisis of our era, with over 20 million refugees worldwide. This will not get solved if we sit back and allow fear to dictate our actions or act is if it’s not our problem.

No one chooses to be a refugee, it’s simply a matter of survival. Refugees are fleeing war, poverty and persecution. If they could stay in their own countries, their homes, they would, but it’s just not an option.

Sometimes we all need to take a step back and wonder how we would feel if placed in the same dire situation.

Watch thefull video, “Look Beyond Borders,” above.

Read more:

Look Beyond Borders - 4 minutes experiment

When talking about the problem of refugees, we use dehumanised language, which reduces human tragedy to numbers and statistics. But this suffering concerns real people, who – just like us - have families, loved ones, friends; their own stories, dreams, goals... Only when you sit down opposite a specific person and look into their eyes, you no longer see an anonymous refugee, one of the migrants, and notice the human before you, just like yourself – loving, suffering, dreaming...
20 years ago, psychologist Arthur Aron discovered that 4 minutes of looking into each other's eyes can bring people closer. Using this discovery, we decided to carry out a simple experiment, during which refugees and Europeans sat opposite each other and looked into each other's eyes. Clearly, it is most important to give each other time to better understand and get to know each other.
The experiment was conducted in Berlin: the city, which - first of all - is a symbol of overcoming the divisions, and secondly, seems to be the centre of the contemporary Europe. We wanted the movie created on the basis of the experiment to be as symbolic as possible – and to touch upon the general divisions between people.
The experiment participants were ordinary people. The situations were not staged; we wanted to get natural, spontaneous reactions. The people sitting opposite each other had not known each other before and saw each other for the first time during the experiment. What is important, the refugees mostly came from Syria and had not been living in Europe for longer than a year.

Mówiąc o problemie uchodźców używa się odhumanizowanego języka, który ludzką tragedię sprowadza do liczb i statystyki. A przecież cierpią konkretni ludzie, którzy – tak jak my - mają rodziny, bliskich, przyjaciół; swoje historie, marzenia, cele… Dopiero kiedy siadasz naprzeciwko konkretnej osoby i spoglądasz jej w oczy, to przestajesz widzieć w niej anonimowego uchodźcę, jednego z migrantów, a zauważasz w nim człowieka, takiego, jakim sam jesteś – kochającego, cierpiącego, marzącego…
20 lat temu, psycholog Arthur Aron odkrył, że 4 minuty patrzenia sobie w oczy potrafi zbliżyć do siebie ludzi. Wykorzystując to odkrycie, postanowiliśmy przeprowadzić prosty ekperyment, podczas którego uchodźcy oraz Europejczycy usiedli naprzeciw siebie i spojrzeli sobie w oczy. Najważniejsze bowiem jest danie sobie czasu, żeby się lepiej zrozumieć i poznać.
Eksperyment przeprowadziliśmy w Berlinie, mieście które - po pierwsze - jest symbolem przezwyciężenia podziałów, a po drugie wydaje się być centrum współczesnej Europy. Zależało nam na tym, by powstały na bazie eksperymentu film był jak najbardziej symboliczny w swoim wyrazie – i dotykał podziałów między ludźmi w ogóle.
Uczestnikami eksperymentu byli zwykli ludzie. Sytuacje nie były reżyserowane, zależało nam na naturalnych, spontanicznych reakcjach. Siedzące naprzeciwko siebie osoby nie znały się wcześniej i podczas eksperymentu zobaczyły po raz pierwszy. Co istotne uchodźcy pochodzili głównie z Syrii i nie mieszkali w Europie dłużej niż rok.

Director: Bartosz Dombrowski (Papaya Films)
DOP: Kuba Kijowski
Editing: Katarzyna Orzechowska | Mateusz Romaszkan
Music: Atanas Valkov
Sound Design: Błażej Kafarski
Producer: Siasia Seyfried
Production dept. Kasia Wac
Production Manager: Ania Stylińska
Casting | refugees: Ania Alboth
Camera Operator: Patricia Lewandowska
Camera Operator: Magda Górfińska
Camera Operator: Casey Cambell
1st Camera Assistant & Focus Puller: Nick Dietz
Assistant & Focus Puller: Katharina Hauke | Yuri Salvador
Gaffer: Konrad Pruski
Digitalization: Haman Wawrzyniec
DIT Martin Hecht
Sound Engineer: Konrad Serowiecki
Post Production: Rio de post - Sylwia Skrzypek

Cinegate Berlin (Sebastian Enke | Gösta Hess | Florian Wimmer | Daniel Sippel | Andi and Stefan)
Ewerk | Elaine Mathe
Rio de Post
Papaya Films | Kacper Sawicki
Cut Cut | Maciej Kozłowski | Paweł Szczypek | Robert Cacaj
Central Park Berlin | Sascha Wolfram & Roland Patzelt

All participants
All translators
Isabella Sobieski
Frank Hellwig
Nicole Czop