The Art of Transforming a Flag

The film “The March of Hope”, produced and filmed together with my good friend Jim Kroft, is gaining traction and has already been selected by twelve festivals for this summer. All thanks to the tireless effort of Mr. Kroft.
It inspired me to revisit my archive in search of an image powerful enough to build a bridge to an entire film. I ended up with this one right here.

It is a young man inside Idomeni Refugee Camp, Greece, wrapped up in the flag of a country he hardly knows.
Shielding him from the cold, biting rain.
Basing his future and hopes on a symbol that has different meanings even to those who rally behind it out of familiarity. Out of chance, really.

I never chose my birthplace and neither has this young man.
Therefore, to me, national symbolism is just a matter of circumstance.
We are born into it and develop a relationship with its ambivalent semiotics.

But at the moment he was displaying the flag – out of unreferenced choice, not proud familiarity – he transformed it into something new.
He had recognised something in German policy and its people at the time;
in their attitude and priorities.
Their desire to relieve suffering first and to find solutions later.
In this context, therefore, for a fleeting moment, the flag had become a symbol of this universal attitude.
To me, at least. And to my own surprise.

Of course, no national flag can ever be a universal symbol.
It goes against the very idea of its inception and purpose.
Only new context can generate new meaning.

We all know, this attitude has changed in Germany since I took this picture.
Many people, for many different reasons, are now afraid of the growing number of refugees.
But they, too, need to be heard, not stigmatised – just like everybody else.
They should be treated as equals, if the term equality is to be more than an arbitrary word.
It is the only way forward without widening the rifts in our societies.
It is the only way forward without contempt and hate.
It is the only way for peaceful change – if this is our desire.

I realise now, all of us together are the context that determines the meaning of all things.
Within a new context a new perspective will unfold. And then, all of a sudden, any flag can become a symbol of universal love.

And this is what “The March Of Hope” is trying to accomplish.
To make seemingly familiar things appear in a new light.
To open up a bigger interpretational space for everyone watching the film.
And to create a new context within our limited perception – like this young man with his flag.

To find out more about the film and to follow the latest developments, please visit


#themarchofhope #yellowvanstories



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