July 07, 2010

A Sud di Lampedusa (Italy 2006)

Movie image
A Sud di Lampedusa
5 out of 5 stars

This blog is about Europe but Europe does not exist in a vacuum and it can be seen from different external angles - for instance, from the South. Yesterday's projection of "A Sud di Lampedusa" at Coventry University (organised by mafia expert Rino Coluccello) was a welcome opportunity.

It's an Italian documentary, by Andrea Segre in collaboration with journalists Stefano Liberti (present in the after-film debate yesterday) and Ferruccio Segre, filmed in 2006 entirely in Africa, on the roads that migrants from Western Africa follow before arriving to the Mediterranean coasts and, possibly, try to cross to Europe (e.g. to the little island of Lampedusa). The message is clear: 9 out of 10 migrants in Western Africa are not directed to Europe but travel within Africa, as they have done for centuries and have done especially in the last 25 years, first to Ivory Coast and Nigeria, and then, due to war there, to destinations like Libya. But the Italian government's request to Ghaddafi to stop people leaving the Libyan shores, and to repatriate/lock up foreigners (at the cost of Italy), has made life impossible for all migrants within Africa, including those who had been to Libya for 20 years and had never bothered going to Europe.

The film is sober, not overdone: you don't need special effects to get great images in the Sahara, and you don't need professional actors when people are as willing to narrate, and skilled in it, as western Africans are during their long journeys. There are no images from the internation camps or prisons, there's no horror-movie soundtrack. Some travel scenes reminded me of my own (much shorter and safer but still very long for me!) journeys on overcrowded local buses along the poor roads of Morocco, Peru, Nicaragua, Borneo or Nepal. The music (Goeffry Oryema, Fela and Femi Kuti) is particularly good and appropriate. Some telling shots, such as a big sign in the middle of nowhere "PAS UN PAS SANS LE VISA", and some great lines (in nice African-accented English or French). After telling about the long difficult itinerary through the Sahara, a lorry driver, asked increduly if this is the only way to Libya, answers "no, there are two ways; if you have money, you can take the plane". And asked if travelling for days on on overcrowded lorries is hard, he says that you get used to it [reflection pause], "yet lorries are for carrying things, not human beings".

The trend of rich countries to ask third countries to do, for them, the dirty job of stopping migrants, is global, and is making life hell within the Thirld World without really stopping immigration anyway. Italy and the EU are also funding Libya to build a wall on the desert border with Niger (surprise surprise, the contract went to a big Italian company, Finmeccanica). Yet the worst of all ideas in this trend has come recently from the new UK government: to repatriate child refugees from Afghanistan, and care for them in one big orphanage to be built in... Kabul. Nota bene: this is all meant "for their own good" (not because it is cheaper and takes votes away from the BNP).

"A Sud di Lampedusa" is not the only or first movie on this topic. It is a very good one though. An 8' extract can be seen on the (recommended) Fortress Europe blog.

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