Central Airport THF
Impact | VIFF Impact
Built in the 1920s and remodelled as a Nazi architectural showcase in the 1930s, Berlin Tempelhof Airport, once among the world’s 20 largest buildings, closed its gates to air traffic in 2008. Since 2015, however, the massive structure has found new purpose as an emergency refugee shelter. Up to 3,000 people currently reside there in various communities situated amongst the many hangars. With a focus on 18-year-old Syrian refugee Ibrahim Al Hussein, director Karim Aïnouz and crew spent a year chronicling one community amongst the many. As Ibrahim talks of his life back home in Syria, Aïnouz’s gently probing camera takes in what amounts to a mini-city, revealing recreation areas, a barbershop, a makeshift clinic and, most touching of all, an improvised Christmas market where one can sip a glass of glüwein. Aïnouz’s humanist perspective and sensitivity to the refugees’ plight are echoed in his feel for the architectural forms within which these asylum seekers dream of new lives, giving his heartfelt film an expansiveness to rival that of the airport itself.
"Aïnouz achieves the perfect balance between people and locale in Central Airport THF, a rare observational documentary that recognizes the beauty of spatial forms without forgetting the individuals who inhabit those voids… The final words are Ibrahim’s, speaking of the saddest day of his life, when he left Syria. Home remains home, and while the documentary makes certain the audience sees individuals and not statistics, the trauma doesn’t fade away. Rather, it seems as enduring as Tempelhof airport itself."—Jay Weissberg, Variety