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Towards the dream of mutual understanding

Former Russian journalist and award-winning filmmaker, Margarita Novikova talks about her latest collaborative production that explores the process of combining mentalization methods with the experience of migration. 

Two minutes and 20 seconds into the short documentary Modern psychology meets the challenge of modern migration you can see the author of these lines almost laughing, and a mere 27 seconds later she is fighting to hold back her tears.

Those two snippets have been cut out of the video recordings and glued together to illustrate the process of “implementing of the mentalizing methods in the communication with migrants”.

It is me who is the migrant trying out this psychological method filmed for the documentary. Basically, I was a guinea pig in what is usually a group session and not a 1-to-1 with a psychologist.



The quote above belongs to a Dutch psychologist Dr Jacques Van Hoof whom I am interviewing for the remaining seven minutes of the film. He has established the Proment Foundation, which he runs with his colleagues in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Its charitable work is dedicated to helping refugees and migrants to settle in their new homes, and at the same time, helping the local communities to not to be scared by the newcomers.

This is more than integration – a process that essentially objectifies migrants – this is about mutual understanding, helping people to understand each other through storytelling and a careful balancing of thoughts and emotions. I wish I could try out balancing my feelings being a part of a group of people. Hopefully, I will get a chance to do so next autumn.

Unfortunately, I do not speak Dutch, the language they usually use at the sessions. However, I am planning to document all four sessions of one course and translate it into English. I believe that we all need to learn how to make ourselves to be understood and accepted, and how to acquire the feeling of belonging.

I am planning to share this mentalizing approach on how to make people understand each other at the time when nationalism is on the rise throughout the EU. Dr Van Hoof bases his work on research that identifies nationalism and far-right movements in response to stress and mutual fears in relation to modern migration.

The film’s objective is to present the mentalizing method in an attempt to change the world for the better and take my first step to start a bigger project dedicated to this subject.

I have produced the film in a collaboration with a documentary maker Elena Michajlowska, who has been co-authoring oral history documentary projects with me since 2011 with me, for our online interactive storytelling platform