“On the Bride’s Side” reviewed (October 2014)

(Picture taken from: http://www.madamasr.com)

A Palestinian poet and an Italian journalist meet five Syrians and Palestinians fleeing the war in Syria at the Milan central station, and decide to help them to reach Sweden by faking a wedding.

It is known that violation of border-regime is a violation of orthodox transnational ethics, and, as such, it is often denigrated by citizens and feared by “aspirant” asylum seekers. In fact, illegal border crossing is widely seen as a criminal act deserving punishment. Based on a capitalist and ethnically discriminatory way of organising people and space, borders regulate human movements, and, as such, they developed an aesthetic of human resentment, fear, psychological deterrence or achievement.

The new film “On the bride’s side”, which has just launched a crowd-funding campaign, seems to me the cinematographic embodiment of unquestionably worthy deeds of human will. Therefore, the movie succeeds in speaking to the public that is neither expert nor necessarily interested in forced migration issues or, in general, the current Middle East’s “plagues”. The Nietzschan manifestation of “the will to power” is what the movie primarily conveys to the public. As a result, any sort of public will get hooked throughout the movie.

The mandatory request for the asylum seekers to provide a “legitimation” of their desires is deliberately denied in its own raison d’être by the decision of this large group of Italians, Palestinians and Syrians. They are all protagonists of a journey, which, to me, also constitutes a meaningful turning point in the bottom-up cultural production on migration and politics. Their journey from Milan to Stockholm starts as a joke, certainly with rational doubts. However, the spectator cannot perceive any emotional hesitation, develops expectations – or even a sort of anxiety – to witness either the final acknowledgment or the failure of human action.

Journalist Gabriele Del Grande, poet Khaled Soliman an-Nassiry and filmmaker Antonio Augugliaro succeed in reminding us that borders are no longer simple edges of a state. Borders are symbolical tyrants, because they manage to shape our perception of the world, as anthropologist Khosravi noticed. And, as Del Grande affirmed in several interviews, “the aesthetics of the border needs to be overturned”.

As a matter of fact, the migrants who cross the Mediterranean Sea and undertake the journey to seek asylum are victims of human laws. Once they crossed, “conflict victims” cannot be their only definition; and not even “victims of fate”, like a large part of the humanitarian assistance sector likes to argue, dealing with an agentless and depersonalised “refugee crisis”.

The movie seems to contend that the only humanitarian act that can be accomplished is taking clear sides. The sides of people who cannot freely choose, against laws allegedly designed to protect the security and the stability of the western fortress, which further feed the gap between imaginary Norths and Souths, and organise human life alongside hierarchical lines.

“On the bride’s side” is a most dignified conveyer of new “border thinking”. A thinking that not merely challenges laws, but rather the North’s consciousness, rushing over to “rescue” people in conflict-ridden sites by providing humanitarian assistance, or intervening in the name of the Responsibility to Protect. Nevertheless, the northern saviours are difficultly willing to open their own borders to embrace the product of the umpteenth political failure, which we love to call “state of emergency”.

In the western proliferation of compassion and sentimentalism around refugehood, which poorly address the European refugee regimes, “On the bride’s side” finally establishes the still missing agency of the refugees: the possibility of asserting one’s own will and develop one’s own rights. Rights that the Law has not forgotten, but has rather suffocated. In the face of this, “the bride” Tasneem Fared states in the movie: as-sama’ lal kol, “the sky is of everyone”.

Finally, I immensely appreciated how “On the bride’s side” greatly shuffles cinema with positivistic activism, where the video camera is the voicing tool that is able to replace the protest’s megaphone.

In a nutshell, the illegal journey from Italy to Sweden is the triumph of a reshaped conception of human rights, according to which the Global North, in order to support and assist the war-stricken Global South, cannot limit itself to provide relief or tell human stories on behalf of unspoken victims to raise compassion. The Northern fence sitters, at some point, connive in the “South’s” predicament.

We have the duty to take a clear stance, speak up and act accordingly. Otherwise, as Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi affirmed, laws will always remain behind us.

Estella Carpi

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