The Netherlands


In a classroom in Sicily, just inside the walls of Fortress Europe, recently arrived refugees receive lessons from a teacher who has some rather unbalanced traits. One moment he mercilessly rejects the refugees – the next, mollifyingly, he embraces them. Operating at the intersection of documentary and fiction, STRANGER IN PARADISE investigates the power relations between Europe and refugees.
Europe is represented by a teacher who drags his class of refugees down into his despair. A plea that borders on the immoral; a welcome charged with a guilt complex; and the compromise between these, made policy: STRANGER IN PARADISE is an unflinching film essay on the mechanisms through which Europe tackles the refugees’ desire for happiness.

Director's Statement

I tried to look down on the Earth from above. Contemplatively, and far removed from moral judgements. During this exercise men turned into mice. Mice wandering around in circles, driven by fear, hope, or dispassionate pragmatism and surrounded by a strong smell of complacency.
It started in May 2013, with a visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa. There, I met some of the migrants who have landed up there, their hopeful dreams for the future seeming to clash with a Europe that has little to offer them. The power relation I filtered from this personal experience - how the lucky ones treat the desire for luck in others - kept me busy.
I wanted to make the power relationship I observed from a distance (and then later, during the research phase, up close) not so much visible, as feelable, by holding up a mirror for the audience, the refugees and myself. A reflective account on what we in Europe named ‘the refugee crisis’. Since I think it’s not a bad thing to first look at ourselves before we try to represent the suffering of the other.

Director's Biography

Guido Hendrikx is a film director and screenwriter, based in Amsterdam. He graduated at Utrecht University (Liberal Arts & Sciences) and the Netherlands Film Academy (Directing Documentary). During film school he directed the shorts ESCORT (2013) and AMONG US (2014) and co-wrote the script for the short FERNWEH (2014, Ena Sendijarevic), which screened extensively in international festivals winning numerous awards. After his studies he worked as a scout and curator for the Dutch video platform The Correspondent.
STRANGER IN PARADISE, which opened IDFA 2016, is his feature debut.

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Guido Hendrikx

Written by: Guido Hendrikx

Produced by: Frank van den Engel

Cinematography: Emo Weemhoff

Original Score: Ella van der Woude, Juho Nurmela

Sound Design: Tijn Hazen

Cast: Valentijn Dhaenens (Europe)

Nominations and Awards

  • European Documentary 2017
  • Documentary Selection 2017