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VENICE 2014 Orizzonti

On the Bride's Side: a lacy free pass to Schengen


- VENICE 2014: The Palestinian-Italian film, presented as a world premiere in the Orizzonti section, is a crazy act of solidarity with those who are fleeing the fighting in Syria

On the Bride's Side: a lacy free pass to Schengen

It was time for a little action at the 71st Venice Film Festival with the Palestinian-Italian film On The Bride's Side [+see also:
film profile
. This documentary, directed by the Syrian-Palestinian poet and literary critic Khaled Soliman Al Nassiry, Italian journalist Gabriele Del Grande and Antonio Augugliaro, is not just a bold act of militancy, but also a crazy act of solidarity.

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The film begins at a meeting. In a flat in Milan, the directors, surrounded by several of their friends, are making the final preparations before they embark upon a wedding procession across Europe, which will enable five Syrian and Palestinian immigrants, who have fled the war in Syria, to seek refuge in Sweden.

A Europe without borders is a dream that belongs firmly to the Europeans. For these men and women who miraculously managed to arrive, alive, in Lampedusa, the trip from Milan to Malmö is extremely trying. Many of them resort to the services of people smugglers, who, as well as extorting exorbitant amounts of money from them, often abandon them in the nets of the border patrols along the way.

“But who would want to stop a wedding procession?” Owing to the fact that Manar and his father Alaa, Mona and Ahmed, and Abdallah – the groom – have no passports, the On The Bride's Side team opts for a free pass in the shape of a sham marriage.

By flouting immigration and asylum laws in order to help these five people reach Sweden, Tasneem (who has agreed to play the role of the bride), the three directors and the whole crew are running a huge risk: a 15-year stretch in prison if they are caught.

The four days of filming (14-18 November 2013) is the length of time necessary to make the Milan – Marseilles – Bochum – Copenhagen – Malmö journey. During the first day, the bride and groom, together with their wedding guests, bid farewell to their Italian drivers in order to traverse the “Passo della morte” on foot – and dressed up to the nines! This crossing was formerly trodden by Italians who wanted to reach France illegally.

The rest of the trip is made mostly by car. The camera’s proximity to the events is unsettling. It bears witness to all the tears, the anguish, the homesickness, the generous helpings of love and the constant human reflection on death. With tears welling up in her eyes, Tasneem recalls, “The death that you’re afraid of isn’t when you die yourself; it’s when the person next to you dies.”

The hardest burden to carry is that of having left behind your loved ones in Syria. The camera, like a truly close friend, subtly captures that disconcerting feeling of finding yourself in an impasse riddled with the unknown: the unknown of a future in exile, and the unknown of dear friends and family that you were forced to leave behind.

On The Bride's Side was funded through a crowdfunding campaign carried out on indiegogo from May to July 2014. A total of 2,617 crowdfunders made a contribution, donating sums of between €2 and €500. The campaign, which initially had a fundraising target of €75,000, ended up with a grand total of €98,151.

According to Gabriele Del Grande, an Italian author and journalist who specialises in immigration and who went to Syria in 2012, the most important ingredient in the film is not denouncement, but rather hope. Nevertheless, out in force, the team behind the movie apparently succeeded in turning heads when they trod the red carpet at the Venice Film Festival on 4 September, as the women all attended wearing white dresses.

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(Translated from French)

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