The topic will be addressed through a daylong film programme at the inaugural One World Media Festival, to be held at UCL in association with Open City Docs. The free two-day festival focuses on global media and human rights issues, with keynote sessions, panel discussions and selection of film screenings from around the globe. Taking up from the theme of global conversations between the ‘North’ and ‘South’, Saturday’s film programme will explore the media’s treatment of migration especially asylum seekers. How does Europe deal with human rights issues that are closer to home?
One of the films to most directly address the mooted topic will be Closed Sea (Mare Chiuso). From directors Andrea Segre & Stefano Liberti, the documentary takes a close look at those making the treacherous journey from Northern Africa across the Mediterranean Sea to Italy. The passage is fraught with considerable danger and no guarantee of any reward upon arrival due to Italy’s ‘push-back policy’. This legislature, an agreement signed between former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and now deceased Libyan ruler Colonel Gaddafi, denotes that to control the flow of migration, those intercepted at sea are sent back to Libya, facing persecution upon their return.
Later in the day, Special Flight (Vol special) documents a further angle on the subject matter; the harsh treatment of migrants scheduled for deportation. The film takes place in Switzerland where, if those earmarked to be deported fail to cooperate, they are forced to take a titular ‘special flight’ in less than pleasant conditions to their native countries.
While documentary is a direct and often penetrative way to address such underseen and volatile subject matter, it should be noted that it is not the only method at a filmmaker’s disposal. Supporting this ideal is Saturday’s exciting double-bill of animated short 1000 Voices and feature drama Leave to Remain.
The former is a ten-minute long animation about the UK’s policy of indefinite detention for asylum seekers. Evocative and striking imagery is accompanied by real phone calls made by detainees from inside their holding cells, and the effect is potent and emotive for the viewer.
Leave to Remain is a first feature from director Bruce Goodison. Starring Toby Jones as a teacher working with teenage asylum seekers who are fleeing their conflict-ravaged homelands, the film is an impressive meditation on the ambiguities and difficulties facing young people who enter the immigration system in the UK.
Both films prove that you can encourage just as much of a reaction from audiences using fiction or impressionistic imagery as you can with documentary.
The cumulative impact of the Saturday programme at the One World Media Festival is a thought-provoking blend of discussion topics and creative filmmaking from a slate of talented directors. For those who believe that cinema and activism are two branches of the same tree, it’s an event that will provide a satisfying balance of debate and art.
This post is by Tom Grater, who has a wonderful documentary blog you can check out here.