This is one of six durational interviews upon which the following work is based:

Candice Breitz
Love Story, 2016
Featuring Alec Baldwin and Julianne Moore
7-Channel Installation: 7 Hard Drives
Duration: 73 minutes, 42 seconds, loop

The other five interviews featured in this multi-channel installation can be accessed via separate links on this Vimeo page.

What kind of stories are we willing to hear? What kind of stories move us? 'Love Story' interrogates the mechanics of identification and the conditions under which empathy is produced. Evoking the global scale of the refugee crisis, the work evolves out of lengthy interviews with six individuals who have fled their countries in response to a range of oppressive conditions: Sarah Mardini, who escaped war-torn Syria; José Maria João, a former child soldier from Angola; Mamy Maloba Langa, a survivor from the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Shabeena Saveri, an Indian transgender activist; Luis Nava, a political dissident from Venezuela; and Farah Abdi Mohamed, a young atheist from Somalia. The interviews were conducted in the cities where each individual is seeking or has been granted asylum (two in Berlin, two in New York and two in Cape Town).


Interviewee: Sarah Ezzat Mardini
Interviewed in Berlin on 18 October 2015
Fled Damascus, Syria
Granted asylum in Berlin, Germany

Sarah Ezzat Mardini was born in Damascus in 1995. From the age of five, she and her sister Yusra were trained by their father – a professional swimming coach – to be competitive swimmers. Both started swimming for the Syrian national swimming team at an early age. The highlight of Sarah’s athletic career came when she won a silver medal at a championship in Egypt at the age of twelve, after which she and other members of the national team were invited for a personal audience with Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria.

When war broke out in Syria, Sarah’s family lost their home, and her father was forced to take a job in Jordan, leaving his wife and three daughters behind in Damascus. Life grew increasingly difficult. As friends started to leave the country to seek safety and a better future, Sarah and Yusra gradually convinced their parents to allow them to risk the journey to Europe.

Flying from Syria to Turkey via Lebanon in August 2015, the sisters made contact with smugglers in Istanbul. The smugglers transported them from Istanbul to Izmir. After a wait of four days and a first failed attempt to make the crossing over the Aegean from Turkey to Greece, Sarah and Yusra were among a group of twenty people that the smugglers loaded onto a flimsy rubber dinghy (which was designed for eight passengers). Few within the group – which consisted of sixteen men, three young women and a baby – could swim. Within fifteen minutes, the motor had failed and the boat started to fill with water. As those on board started to pray feverishly, Sarah courageously jumped into the night sea and started to push the boat in the direction of Greece. Yusra and a handful of others joined her in the dark water. After three and a half hours of strenuous swimming, they had managed to guide the boat safely to the shore of Lesbos, saving twenty lives. In her interview, Sarah vividly describes the Aegean crossing, as well as the subsequent journey that the sisters made across Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary and Austria en route to Germany.

Sarah and Yusra arrived in Berlin in September 2015. Their parents and younger sister were able to join them in December 2015. The family has applied for asylum in Germany. Sarah is currently studying German and is a passionate member of the Refugee Club Impulse, a vibrant theatre group that was established by refugees and advocates for refugee rights. She spends much of her time on the island of Lesbos volunteering with ERCI (Emergency Response Centre International), a non-profit organisation that provides humanitarian aid to refugees arriving in Greece. Sarah is a proud Arab who resents the rich Arab countries for their poor treatment of Syrian refugees. She is an observant Muslim. She is opinionated and outspoken. She plans to study journalism (with a focus on human rights), and to return to Syria when it becomes safe to do so.