This year, the winner for Best Short Film at the Nyack Film Festival was “Writing on the Wall” by filmmaker Rob Barrett and singer/songwriter Sam Leopold. The film features footage of refugees crossing deserts, mountains, and seas, children clinging to their parents or to a few precious belongings. The topic is painfully current, and yet, as Sam will tell you – the writing has been on the wall for a very long time. His song, written nearly twenty years ago was prescient. At the time, few saw the problem of refugees coming on as hard and fast as is now happening.
Fifteen years after the release of the song, filmmaker Rob Barrett heard it and proposed the making of a short film based on the song. Sam agreed and they launched into the project without waiting to find investors. Over the next two years, local artists, activists, and inspired individuals from far and wide, participated in the project. A local documentarian and activist, Hassan Oswald, who traveled to Lesvos, Greece, to witness, help, and document the travails of the Syrian refugees coming ashore provided footage that became the basis for the film. Gaining rights to other footage was not without adventure. Most notably, a Brazilian professor of geography living in Malaga, Spain, inspired by the video’s message, got on a boat and travelled to Cueta, a Spanish region located on the northern coast of Africa across from Gibraltar. Upon landing, she took a taxi to the headquarters of Faro TV, where she spoke to the manager, and received written permission for Sam and Rob to use video footage owned by the station.