We have a compulsion to erect fences, keep boundaries and generally compartmentalise territory. The fall of the Berlin Wall was an iconic moment in 1990 and the most familiar physical barrier in western Europe of the 20th Century. (The story of how it came to fall is worth reading).
So called peace walls and fences are a familiar sight in conflict regions around the world, with the dual purposes of keeping people apart and providing reassurance to those living on either side. New interfaces cut wide swathes of land with tracks for vehicles, cameras and security paraphernalia, and several fences in parallel to impede anyone intent on ignoring the barrier.
And then there’s US Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s “great wall” along the country’s southern border which would require around 1000 miles of concrete at an estimated cost to Mexico of $10-25 billion.
“We are the mice and they are the cats.”
Footage follows guards up in watch towers as well as those actively planning crossings. A mother longs to be reunited with her three children on the other side of a wall. We catch a glimpse of the unofficial and exploitative commerce that sprouts up across interfaces.
“They realised they can’t stop the people coming in: the fence isn’t the answer.”
Like the museum curator in Lampedusa in Winter who pieced together the stories of refugees from artefacts left behind in the abandoned boat wreck yard, Walls follows two church men as they pick up wallets and personal items left behind in the sandy ground and look into the owners’ lives.
Pablo Iraburu and Migueltxo Molina’s 82 minute film is beautifully crafted and edited, with great use of split screen to compare and contrast characters on either side of the featured interfaces, and across continents. (They also filmed in Bangladesh|India but removed the footage to simplify the final narrative.)
This film makes the statistics of migration human once again. No one is judged by the filmmakers as right or wrong.
Walls was screened in the Queen’s Film Theatre as part of Belfast International Arts Festival strand on World in Motion.