New Yorkers are often envious of the spacious and relatively affordable apartments many people in Berlin can call their home. But not all of its inhabitants are fortunate enough to have a roof over their heads. Streets of Berlin is a video platform, which focuses on poverty and homelessness. The page was founded by Omid Mirnour, a 22 year old from Aachen who came to Berlin in April 2012 to study Media Management. Mirnour noticed very quickly that Berlin has a much higher density of homeless people than other cities. In fact, the prominence of people living on the street is so drastic that it seems to have a desensitizing effect on the rest of Berlin’s residents. Many Berliners easily overlook and ignore others in need. Mirnour wants to change that.
S2S: What is your personal motivation for Streets of Berlin?
Omid Mirnour: I started to ask myself with every encounter I had how this person was put into this situation? What has to happen so that you become homeless? Did every single person living in the street have to endure a stroke of fate? How do you live as a homeless person and what happens to you on an everyday basis? All these questions built the foundation for this project. So one day, I rented a camera and asked homeless people if they would be up to telling me something about their lives. The first stories that I heard startled and fascinated me so much that I wanted to hear more from the streets of Berlin. This is how the project slowly started coming to life.
The inhuman and disgusting media program that uses poor people to create attention by making fun of them, also provoked me to start with a counterattack. I wanted to create a video platform where homeless and poor people could tell their true stories and are not forced to reiterate the plot of a TV show.
S2S: What is your personal intention with Streets of Berlin?
Omid Mirnour: I would like to open people’s eyes by making them aware of the fact that people don’t choose to be homeless or live in the streets. By creating individual portraits I want to create a kind of sympathy and am hoping to change the way “normal” people tend to interact with homeless people.
Furthermore, I see it as a chance as many people living in the streets actually also seem to gain something from talking about their lives, their wishes, their dreams and goals.
As homeless people are often ignored, I can only imagine that they might appreciate receiving some attention and having the possibility to talk about their experiences and their emotions.
S2S: Is there an encounter that stands out in your memory?
Omid Mirnour: One time after I did one of my interviews, a homeless person told me, that he really appreciated that I didn’t turn my head on him and look away but instead took my time to have a deep and respectful conversation. After my filming session I sat down for quite some time to talk with him and get some insight into his life.
S2S: Are you able to support homeless people with your Streets of Berlin?
Omid Mirnour: Watching my video documentations that allow you to get a five minute glimpse into the lives of people in need will not help to change their situation. You might sympathize with the person who is telling their tragic story but it won’t really change their personal circumstances. What I expect however is that Streets of Berlin changes perception. I want to change the way people encounter homeless people. Of course I don’t expect that everyone starts donating money, but I hope for a more respectful togetherness. I know it sounds cheesy but we need to make ourselves aware that we are all human beings and should stop differentiating due to our backgrounds or our personal privileges.
Just by making eye contact and showing some acknowledgment you can already give someone a better feeling and let him/her know that s/he is appreciated as a human being.
S2S: How much change can you expect Streets of Berlin to make?
Omid Mirnour: I am not sure if I have been able to seriously change something. However, I receive a lot of positive feedback. I am not helping anyone by portraying sad stories, but I think I have been creating a lot of attention and I have been shown a lot of respect for the work I do and this respect I would like to pass on to my interview partners who have been so open to share their personal destinies with me and my audience.
I would also like to reinforce that I have really appreciated every single conversation.
S2S: Where do you see yourself headed in the future?
Omid Mirnour: I would like to focus on poverty in general and children that are growing up under poor conditions.
Since I am currently doing everything on my own I would be happy to get some support. Other than that I am planning on proceeding the way I started.
Streets of Berlin is currently seeking cinematographers, photographers, sound engineers, and video editors for SoB productions. People who are open and willing to work in a team while creating something amazing with Omid should definitely get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
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