Monday, 4 November 2013

Saturday's Films at the One World Media Festival

After the recent Lampedusa boat disaster - where over 300 immigrants lost their lives when their vessel capsized in waters between Eritrea and Italy - the subject of the perilous dangers of migration has once again been forefronted in the European public’s consciousness.

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.


  1. Insightful story, but really nothing new. With AFM going on this week, lots of interesting articles on the state of the industry, indie production and sales. And while "Independent" can have a very wide definition as far as budget, producer and director - good revenue in foreign markets is essential to a distribution strategy. And that is based on recognizable stars they can sell to their audiences. Not that it can't be done without stars, but most deals made are commensurate with who's on the screen. And of course, good story, production value, etc.

    For us, as animators, we went with filmbay and are very happy with them. Our animated feature "Bulgarian Prophet" is now available as web stream VOD: and they also enabled access to our film in all Asian markets. They did the subtitling into other Asian languages free, at no cost, and went out of their way to support and market it worldwide. Our film is even available on airlines now, including KAL, JAL and Singapore Airlines! I wish you would run a full story on them here, since they awesome, to say the least, and yes, we are getting solid royalties, which we are investing into our next feature project. Thanks and have a great weekend. We love Indie films, Yavor and Ilse Batchev:-)

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