SIHMA | Scalabrini Institute For Human Mobility In Africa

Can a film make a difference?

I would argue that the films that are made reflect the focus and spirit of the time in which they are made. There seems to be an uncomfortable parallel between what is news and what becomes entertainment. Consider that so many recent films interrogate the complex horrors of war, even as war plays out on so many of fronts. Consider that so many migrants become the ghastly statistics reported on the news. Somehow, we hope that deft filmmakers can use these stories to provoke deep thinking and even change.

 But moviegoers want more than deep truths, they also want to be entertained. Films are for telling stories, for entertaining, for evoking dreams and hope, or perhaps for showing heroic humanity in a broken world.

 I have recently come across two films, Blind Ambition and Dunki, that bring homage to the resilience of people on the move and give us, the viewers, a sort of cinematographic earworm. After watching these two films, we are compelled to think differently about refugees. These two films are unforgettable and delightful, for different reasons.

 In Blind Ambition, Warwick Ross and Rob Coe codirect a documentary about four economic refugees who become, to their own surprise, sommeliers representing their home country, Zimbabwe, at the 2017 World Blind Wine Tasting Championship in France. This is not a sentimental portrait of underdogs becoming heroes. It is a joyful account of outsiders becoming the darlings of the somewhat snobbish world of wine. There is warmth and humour beside the sweat and tension. It is a testament to the resilient character that grows from the hardships of a “journey tattooed on the heart”. If you have become fatigued by the sadness and victimhood associated with human migration, this film will restore your respect for those who rise and resolve to walk the road to a better life, whatever that might entail.

 In contrast to Blind Ambition, Dunki is an emotional and hilarious Hindi film, subtitled in English, fortunately! The sparkling wit and endearingly heightened drama of this film by Shah Rukh Khan and Rajkumar Hirani is based on a true story about desperate refugees taking the treacherous “donkey route” to a supposed land of plenty. The viewer laughs, weeps and gasps as many words of truth are spoken in jest. I am sure that any viewer will roar with laughter at the deviousness and dexterity of the final border-crossing. It is a (true) story with an almost happy ending for four aging friends. It is so beautiful, so poignant… but oh, I wished it could have ended differently.

 Perhaps, by making / watching films that inform and enrich the dialogue about refugees and human mobility, we might undo the injurious stereotypes that polarise this world we share.

Blog post by Rhoda van Schalkwyk

Photo by Openclipart-vectors on Pixabay






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