TELEVISION / The long way home

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
HOMES LOOK different wherever you go but homelessness is virtually identical - people sleeping beneath the comfortless light of neon; stark, stained rooms from which urgency seems to have drained; the ruck of old blankets and second-hand clothes. 'An orphan starts like this, with no parents,' said Tony, one of the unemployed men in No Place Like Home, part of Channel 4's Gimme Shelter season. It was an odd remark from a grown man but it touched home, capturing the lost, child-like desperation of having nowhere to go, of being forgotten. You could see exactly the same numb weariness in the faces of the refugees filmed in the second part of Adam Holloway's report on those fleeing the conflict in Bosnia.

Tony and Alan had come to Brighton to find work - and so fell into one of the many cunning paradoxes devised by the current Social Security system. Because they were 'incomers', and had relocated by choice, they were unlikely to get an emergency grant. Without the emergency grant they were without a deposit to put down on a rented room, and without a permanent address they were far less likely to find work. In the event (perhaps because the cameras were around) they did find a place to stay, but only after sampling the noisy hospitality of a church crypt and exploring the possibility of squatting. There weren't unrealistic ambitions on show here (Alan did one of those jubilant little double uppercuts when he got a job sweeping up in a car-park), just a particularly blunt demonstration that being ready and willing to work counts for very little in a recession.

In Croatia the only things that count are papers - passports, letters of guarantee, entry permits. For Disguises (ITV) Adam Holloway posed as a Bosnian Muslim (notionally deaf-mute) and, along with an interpreter, explored the possible routes out of a Croatian refugee camp and, presumably, into an Austrian, or Swedish, or Canadian one. It was a miserable story, quite capable of bruising the conscience without the Exodus-like surge of orchestral compassion that blundered on to the soundtrack from time to time.

At first the shoulder-bag camera wasn't much in evidence. Long-shots of both Holloway and his companion suggested that somebody else was doing some filming as well, to provide some relief from that slightly myopic and wobbling lens. Where it did come into its own was when Holloway entered the world of the profiteers and people smugglers. His most dramatic footage came after he had put himself into the hands of two Macedonian cafe-owners running a lucrative sideline in night-time trips across the Austrian border - this particular trip ending in a high- speed chase along country roads. Holloway professed to be terrified but seemed to have enough presence of mind to take reaction shots and position the camera as he was searched and handcuffed. The driver got five months, Holloway was released next day, and a real refugee, presumably, would have been back exactly where he started.

Comments