And We Will Throw the Sea Behind You documents the stories of several migrants from middle eastern nations to Greece and Turkey. Pieced together from low resolution video and film, spanning roughly 2009 to 2012, and audio recordings of testimonials from migrants, an impression of the life of the Arab migrant is sculpted. Lacking a central figure with whom we travel, the viewer imagines the drama lived through by Aziz, Sidigi, Houssine, and Younes, without ever seeing them on the their journey.
Filmmakers, Noémi Aubry, Jeanne Gomas, Clément Juillard, and Anouck Mangeat, avoid any sort of policy analysis or investigation that might reveal why all these things are happening. The stories are what they are; the camera has captured all that it could. With a collage of landscape shots, intimate closeups of people and scenery, this impressionistic style breathes and avoids getting too close with the people speaking their stories. This fusion of raw imagery and storytelling, edited together as if in a state of wandering, allows the mind to consider the political and social conditioning of life with borders.
For many civilians dying in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, (the list goes on…) beneath the bombs dropped by their own so-called representative governments, by US forces, by Russian forces, Saudi, Canadian, French, (the list goes on…), they most likely didn’t have the money, status, or connections to migrate, legally or illegally, and so died under those bombs. Those who made it legally to Europe were probably educated, above-average and able to offer something much greater than refugee status. Those who illegally crossed may have been middle-class in their homeland, so had the money required for bribing security forces and paying smugglers.
My dream is to be free, to go anywhere I want.
Each with a varying degree of suffering for their choice to leave their homeland of Afghanistan, Iraq, Nepal, and Morocco, that degree of suffering is somehow tied to the money they have to offer their benefactors. “People are merchandise,” says one of these depressed young men. It is true, whether welcomed in open arms by western nations or by coercion at border checks, every person has their value. Universally, they described the bribing involved, being forced away, and being prosecuted or abused by natives.
The person who seems to have it easiest is Houssine, a Moroccan immigrant. Coming from parents who could afford to finance his life as a competitive runner, he was able to move to Greece without so much red tape. However, even after winning competitions in Greece, he continues to be confronted with discrimination and there is no forward mobility from there. “My dream is to be free, to go anywhere I want.”
I thought immediately of my privilege as an American. I can go anywhere I want, but I can’t afford it. And were I forced to liquidate all of my belongings to uproot myself, I probably would only have enough to bribe security officers and smugglers.
It is remarkable to me that no matter what nation you may be in, despite the total connection of all people by way of media and their stories, we are still obsessed with borders. Indeed, a Grecian named Adonis is a self-described militant anti-fascist, because in Greece, there has been a resurgence of militant fascists, aka “nationalists.” These are racists reacting to the refugee crisis, which, in part, has been caused by western powers invading Iraq and Afghanistan.
It would be naive to blame the West for causing the problem. Even those who could tolerate the American occupation could not tolerate the presence of the Taliban. “Anywhere you go, there could be an explosion,” Sidigi points out. Violent extremists have been a developing reality in the middle east for decades, and western occupation has stirred the pot. This security problem has become an increasing cause for migration for the people of Arab nations, especially in the 14 years following the post-9/11 invasion by western powers to the region. Overt regime change missions and covert proxy wars have enthralled jihadists producing vast arms trades that account for 31% of US exports.
All that anyone ever wants is security. We find it in our homes and relationships. When migrants lose that in their homeland, they are forced to seek it elsewhere. Elsewhere, they are met by “security forces” whose job is to keep them out by force. In Turkey and Iran, they say it was policy to fire on anybody crossing illegally, under the assumption that they are terrorists. But when refugees are running from terrorists, failed by their own militaries, they enter a wheel of contradiction that spins for the sake of national security — unless they had the money and status to migrate legally.
And We Will Throw The Sea Behind You screens tonight at 7:30 pm at the Hollywood Theatre. See the links below for more information.