Ravnice, at the north-western tip of Bosnia. If this weren’t where the green border with Croatia and thus the EU’s external border runs through, it would be one of the world’s most uneventful regions. Only a few houses, a couple of sheds – randomly dotted across the hills. The idyll of this seemingly unspoilt landscape is deceptive. Dark dreams still slumber in its soil, many mines from the Bosnian war are yet to be cleared.

Amid all this, people trudge through the night, the rain and the snow in search of shelter and a better life. People from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Burundi, they have become pawns in our politics. At times, the wind carries their screams through the night. When they are brutally chased across the border out of the EU into the grey blackness of the woods. Discouraged and disorientated, they find themselves in the middle of nowhere that is Ravnice. The villagers know of the fate of refugees, they once shared it. They open the old school building to them and so their exhausted bodies and souls find a moment of safety, far away from official camps and NGOs.

Meanwhile, daily routines happen around them, everyday life continues. Despite flight. Despite wars. Wood has to be chopped and corn harvested. Children practise poems. The sporty roaring of motorbikes shakes up the tranquillity of afternoon coffee rituals. The imam calls to prayer. Somewhere dogs bark and over the border a large flock of birds draw irregular circles in the sky. 

Swiss director Nicole Vögele (CLOSING TIME, NEBEL) spent several years investigating and reporting on this border region. She was the first journalist to film the illegal pushbacks of the Croatian police. Now she returns as a cineaste. Observing, delving deeper, not prying with direct questions, giving the seasons, the weather and the forest as much space as the people. The result is a portrait of a perhaps inconsolable, haunted landscape, as if in the throes of a nightmare. But also a portrait of human resilience and warmth. A bright flicker in the darkness.