The summer of 376 AD. The Gothic female warrior Elja is forced to give in to the marauding Huns and to seek shelter for herself and her clan in the Roman empire.
Once at the border they must wait for orders and provisions from the Roman authorities. Elja tries to understand the Roman plans in spite of the language barrier. Reluctantly Elja must hand over her sword as the Roman general Cossus tells her that, being a woman, she will never be accepted as a warrior in Rome. She feels helplessly at the mercy of her alleged allies and their laws. Why is she being treated like a prisoner of war? Why can’t she travel onwards with her clan? What will happen when the Huns reach their camp?
The Gothic faith – and in turn Elja’s entire identity – is put to the test. When Cossus surprisingly calls upon the Gothic clan leaders tempers reach their boiling point and the situation escalates.
Towards the end of the 4th century AD the Huns increasingly put the European tribes under pressure. The first to be confronted with the mounted warriors are the Ostrogoths and the Visigoths that live slightly north of what is the Balkan region today. The tribes flee in terror and gather on the northern banks of the Danube river where they ask the Roman empire for asylum.
The emperor Valens gladly accepts the refugees – Rome is becoming more and more weak and must increase its army ranks, and hopes that the newly arrived Goths will help to stabilise the empire in light of the Hun menace.
In the refugee camps themselves continuous provisions prove to be more difficult than expected. In addition to this, Roman officials begin to enrich themselves on the Goths’ plight. Aid is held back, families have to sell their children into slavery. The atmosphere in the camps is on the tipping point.
When the Roman general Lupicinius calls upon the leaders of the Gothic clans his motives remain unclear: Is this a conciliatory move? Or does he intend to smash the Gothic leadership, thereby destroying the tribal structures, with one blow? The meal ends in catastrophe – the situation escalates.
The current debate surrounding the refugee situation in Europe is overshadowed by economic fears, individual situations and doubts. The rhetoric of “us” and “them” has taken over. All this is in no way helpful towards finding a solution to this challenge. This film tries to show that this situation of forced migration is not an exception, but rather a constant factor in this human existence, which in turn also shows that anyone can become a refugee.
This film cannot pretend to give an easy answer to this “crisis”, but as important as it is to help on the ground, it is equally important to try and create a deeper understanding of the historical dimension of this humanitarian emergency.
That is what film can do – that is why we wanted to tell the story of Elja – a European refugee from the 4th century AD.
– Willi Kubica
Xenophobia and the hatred of foreigners are reaching an all-time high at the moment. We consider it to be our responsibility as film-makers to use our medium in order to try and create an understanding for people in need, and to develop a position that is not based on intolerance. At the same time we do recognize that the current media landscape is over-saturated with topics surrounding the current refugee situation. We therefore want to place an emphasis not only on the relevance of the topic itself, but also on the entertainment aspect in order for the film to reach as broad an audience as possible. We want to tell a captivating story in an atmospheric world that is well known and highly loved around the world by fan-communities of “Game of Thrones” or in the live-action-role-play-scene. With a compelling set-design, aesthetic images, and a strong story line we intend to reach as broad an audience as possible whilst simultaneously adding to the current discussion of how to deal with those in need.
– Julia Deumling and Theresa Bacza