by Sherif Awad
The word “diaspora” comes from the Greek word diasperien that reflects the forced or voluntary dispersion of people from their countries due to economic, political, or colonial reasons. This week, I was able to watch two diaspora documentaries that were different in their visual and narrative styles but leading to the same conclusion about many realities that need to be changed in our world. I was watching the two documentaries while connoting each one of them with TV news I recently saw last week about boats carrying illegal migrants from different parts of Africa to the Mediterranean shores of Europe, particularly Italy. But even if these illegal migrants reached their dreamlands, they will still live up to the reality of being accepted or rejected by the European society. And that’s what the two documentaries reveal to the viewers…
The first documentary Evaporating Borders is by a Serbian-Croatian documentary filmmaker who was born in former Yugoslavia. She is Iva Radivojevic who is now New York-based yet she is still having roots going deep in Cyprus where she spent a large portion of her childhood. Evaporating Borders is Iva’s latest documentary in which she is analyzing the lives and experience of different asylum seekers in this Mediterranean island. An Island in the Sun is the title of the captivating first segment of the film that introduces us, with Iva’s narrative voice, to the beautiful sceneries across Cyprus and the simplicity of the daily life with old people either opening their windows to the sunshine or opening their small stores to make a living. But across the peaceful island lie many complications due to the problems generated between Cypriots and many immigrants and asylum seekers from Arab countries like Palestine and Iraq. In the following segments The visitors, Fear’s invention, Imagined Identities and finally Evaporating Borders, the director tries to be subjective by interviewing some of the immigrants and later some of the governmental officials who deny their requests. The reason: Cypriots are worried that some of the Arabs and Muslims could bring some fundamentalistic ideologies to the peaceful communities which can be an escalating threat to their national identity in the near future. Through wide angles and meticulous portraits, we see how Cyprus is living up to its current nationality issues as an Island with roots going back in time to Greece and Turkey.
Future, It’s far too big is an another documentary about migration but this time it is the joint efforts by two Italian filmmakers Michele Citoni and Giusy Buccheri who present a double portrait of a young man and a young woman who have been living for years in Italy but never got final residencies. Re, who was born in Italy to a Filipino family, now lives in Rome with his parents and sister. He has an Italian girlfriend and attends the university with dreams of becoming a filmmaker. Zhanxing was born in China then, at the age of ten, she moved with her parents to Italy as well. She is a university graduate but still looking for work and a concrete future in Rome. Both Re and Zhanxing are just examples of one million individuals who are living in Italy with temporary residency papers being the sons or daughters of legal immigrants. Although they parents have official documents for residencies, the young one are not treated with the same way according to some current Italian laws. In the film, Michele Citoni and Giusy Buccheri chose to combine their own photography following Re and Zhanxing with footage made by the cellphones of these two protagonists in order to give the film a vivid and modern look. In successive videos, we see how Re and Zhanxing are struggling with their daily challenges and problems, including their incomplete social and political rights within the Italian community. They are like many young people belonging to a second generation with origins going back to the Far and Middle East, Africa, South America who are trying to have a life inside or outside Italy. The last frames of the documentary reveal that Zhanxing decided to discover China, the homeland of her parents while Re trying to continue his studies after he broke up with his Italian girlfriend. The two are still trying to fit somewhere.