My Name is Sultan (and I'm human)

Uprooted from the age of 6, Sultan has grown up as a refugee. At 28, he now has his own family to care for. With his wife and two children they take a grave decision. The journey to Sweden is long, exhausting and very dangerous. And yet another great anguish is waiting for them at the destination.

  • Alexis Rizos
    Director
  • Alexis Rizos
    Writer
  • Alexis Rizos
    Producer
  • Project Title (Original Language):
    To Όνομά Μου Είναι Σουλτάν (και είμαι άνθρωπος)
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Runtime:
    20 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    August 31, 2017
  • Production Budget:
    500 EUR
  • Country of Origin:
    Greece
  • Country of Filming:
    Greece, Hungary, Sweden
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital
  • Aspect Ratio:
    16:9
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    Yes
  • Student Project:
    No
  • Aegean Docs Film Festival
    Mytilene
    Greece
    October 5, 2017
    Premiere
    Official Selection
  • "Home New Home" in Athens
    Athens
    Greece
    October 19, 2017
  • AlFF, Alternative Film Festival
    Toronto, Ontario
    Canada
    International Premiere
    Official Selection
  • Select Respect Film Festival
    Thessaloniki
    Greece
    June 2, 2018
    Official Selection
  • West Side Mountains Doc Fest
    Miliana
    Greece
    August 6, 2018
    Official Selection
Director Biography - Alexis Rizos

Alexis Rizos is an English teacher at the Greek Secondary Education. He holds a Master's on European Cinema. Cinema has always been one of his favorite hobbies and he has never ceased engaging with it, more or less intensely at times, but always as an amateur. This is his second film.

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Director Statement

“My Name is Sultan – and I am Human” is a short documentary film inspired by its creators’ experience of the ongoing refugee crisis, which reached its peak in Greece in the summer of 2015. At that time, we both worked as teachers on the Greek island of Kos, which was one of the islands through which a huge wave of refugees and immigrants sought their way into Europe. Alongside a number of other inhabitants of the island we set up a solidarity group of volunteers (Kos Solidarity), who worked hard in order to offer a helping hand to all those people struggling to survive under the severe circumstance of having to leave their homelands.
It was during that period that we had the chance to meet Sultan Balkhi, his wife and their two little children. Sultan immediately stood out from the crowd as a person who, despite the obvious difficulties he and his family were facing, offered his services in any way he could in order to support our work. His knowledge of English was crucial and he volunteered as a translator, thus making communication between the members of our solidarity group and the refugees possible. Throughout his stay in Kos he never ceased to assist our group’s activity, not only translating, but also actively participating in food/goods distribution and all kinds of tasks.
In the autumn of 2016, we were extremely happy to reconnect with Sultan via the social media and we found out that he and his family had finally managed to reach their destination, Sweden. They were offered a comfortable furnished apartment and a monthly allowance to cover their basic expenses with. After a long, perilous and terribly exhausting journey, they could at last feel safe and calm. Soon, their third child was born. However, we were informed that it was not clear at all whether they would be allowed to stay in Sweden, whether they were going to be offered asylum.
We then decided to make a documentary about Sultan and his family’s great travel, their Odyssey, and their struggle to survive. The reason we wanted to make this film was mainly because we firmly believe that the stories of the refugees have to be documented, they have to be heard. Every single personal story is part of a huge collective narrative, part of History on the process and it shall not be forgotten, if humanity is ever to be able to reassess its past and evolve into a better future for everybody.
Unfortunately, two years later, in the autumn of 2018, we were informed that Sultan and his family’s application for asylum had been rejected by the Swedish Migration Agency. As a result, they faced the grave danger of deportation to Afghanistan, where their lives would be at serious threat, because of their religious faith (Shia Muslims) and ethnicity (they belong to the Hazara ethnic minority). Moreover, apart from being a hostile and unwelcoming place for them, Afghanistan is also totally unknown territory for their children who have never lived there, not for a single day. Their only hope was to file for an appeal and wish the Court would change their decision and grant them the asylum. Sultan’s attorneys decided to make use of our film in order to strengthen their case in favor of Sultan in front of the Court. Six months passed, six months of anxiety and terrible stress, before the Court heard the case again. Then, in late March 2019, we heard with immense pleasure and deep relief that the final decision of the Court was exactly what Sultan and his family had been dreaming of; they were granted the asylum and from then on they would be free to remain in Sweden legally for as long as they wish. Their Odyssey has now truly reached an end, while our film has fulfilled its mission.
We believe that, if our film has helped Sultan’s case, even to the smallest extent, then this can be considered one of those cases when Art manages to help people not only in a theoretical way, but also in a very practical one, and we are very proud about that. Our film has been shown in a number of festivals in Greece and abroad, as well as in a number of special screenings organized by film associations, film clubs, refugee solidarity groups and schools. It is our strong belief that all such documentations of the refugee crisis need to find their audience in order to raise awareness regarding this extremely urgent and important issue.