Director Burhan Qurbani only had to look as far as his childhood memories to find the subject of We Are Young. We Are Strong. When he was 11 years old, this son of Afghan immigrants to Germany heard about a terrible tragedy that had unfolded in the city of Rostock. A group of young neo-Nazis led four nights of riots against the refugee population there, culminating in an act of attempted murder: the rioters tried to burn down a building with 150 Vietnamese immigrants inside.
“Growing up as a son of Afghan parents, I still thought I was German and that [Germany] was my home,” Qurbani says. “When this incident happened I realised, maybe I’m not German. Maybe I’m an alien, maybe I’m not wanted here. This was something which kept working on my mind for years and years.” Disturbed by how few people actually remembered “The Night of the Fire”, as it was called at the time, Qurbani decided to make a film about it. The result, We Are Young. We Are Strong, is shot largely in black-and-white and takes place in a 24-hour period around The Night of the Fire, with tension slowly building to boiling point.
Though the events depicted in the film occurred in 1992, it may feel familiar. Far-right political groups are seen to be gaining power across Europe today, as the continent faces similar economic pressures as those in the early ‘90s, and many fear that racism and xenophobia, particularly directed at immigrants from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, is on the rise.
From the Tribeca Film Festival, Christian Blauvelt examines why Qurbani felt it was so important that people today learn about this almost forgotten chapter of history.
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