Muros (Walls)

Today I woke up reading – once again – news about walls. This time it was in Calais, where work is about to begin on a new, 1km long wall along the ferry port’s approach road, to keep out refugees. Walls, fences and barbed wire seem to be the symbols of the world we are building.

Together with Migueltxo Molina, I directed a film about walls. The first one we filmed was in our country, Spain. In Melilla we witnessed the fence that separates Europe from Africa. Then we went to the border between Mexico and the USA. Later, to the fence that separates India from Bangladesh. Later we went to shoot to the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe. And to the huge wall that Israel has built in Palestine.

At the beginning of the project we thought that what was moving migrants was the same search for happiness, for a better life. From our western point of view, we thought that this was going to be what we could find in common with the people at the other side of the wall. During the shooting we discovered we were wrong. People at the other side of the fence are not looking for a better life. They are looking for any kind of life. They are running away from death. They are trying to survive. Knowing that, you look at walls in a different way.

In Calais there is something that now caught my attention: it is not the fact that they are building a new wall (this is happening all over the world, almost every week) What surprised me – and made me feel sick – is that this new Wall is going to be covered with beautiful flowers.

My job as a filmmaker is to show what is at the other side of the wall. And what I found is people like me. But in a very extreme situation, in a very violent and hard struggle for survival, I cannot forget what I saw at the other side. It is much more comfortable to live at this side of the wall without knowing what is happening at the other. Now we want to do it in a nice way, with a wall that has flowers at one side and barbed wire at the other.

We want to live better. We want to be happy and comfortable. We want to live in a world full of walls, isolated from the others. Now comes the next step – let’s paint the walls with flowers so we disguise this tragedy in a beautiful way. I feel ashamed of being European, of living at the flowered side of the wall.

Pablo Iraburu is co-director of Walls, which screens at the CCA, Glasgow, 22 September, and the Filmhouse, Edinburgh 24 September, as part of the Take One Action! Film Festival. www.takeoneaction.org.uk

Comments (11)

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  1. Crubag says:

    It strikes me that if the Mexicans, Moroccans and Palestinans had had a system of managed immigration you wouldn’t be writing this article…

      1. David Sangster says:

        Not too clued up about irony, then, Mr Editor?

        1. Crubag says:

          You only need to be a student of history, as every nationalist should be. The lessons are similar in all those cases, but take the most current one: Israel/Palestine.

          How did that come about?

        2. Sorry if I missed that David / Crubag – drowning in Troll bile …

          1. bringiton says:

            Yes,noticed that.
            They must be getting very worried about something.

  2. Richard anderson says:

    Maybe that ‘fantastic’ song that was released by the astroturfing unionists might serve as a theme tune

  3. bringiton says:

    Walls to keep out immigrants represents a failure of policy rather than success and is seen,usually by right wing administrations,as a simplistic solution to problems they have been responsible for creating.
    A short term fix for something which isn’t going to go away and will require international cooperation in order to find a lasting solution.
    Cooperation,however,is not usually the strong point of these administrations who prefer the bully boy tactics and the use of violence.

  4. David Sangster says:

    Walls are all about defence, whether from mortal threat or just as importantly from cultural threat. What is usually on one side is a developed civilisation in which rule of law is paramount; while on the other is a lawless barbarian horde, or at least what is perceived to be so. We need not travel far to find a good example, or rather, two: Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine one. Whatever your take on the Picts and the lowlands tribes – who were undoubtedly, up to a point, “civilised” – to the Romans they were lawless bandits, rapists and robbers. The Sumerians thought it worthwhile to build a 170 mile long wall between the Tigris and the Euphrates to keep out the migrant, nomadic Amorites whom they depicted as “barely human, living in the open, foraging for food and eating meat raw.”

    This is why I disagree with the sentimentality of the argument for what looks an interesting film. Walls and fences are a constant in human history, and will continue to be so whenever a people sees a threat to its comfort zone, its prosperity, culture and security. No amount of misty-eyed fairy wishes that we could all love one another and be happy and we’re all Jock Thomson’s bairns and so on will make the slightest difference. Where there’s a perceived threat, up go the walls and fences. There’s a whole industry, after all, dedicated to providing the increasingly sophisticated kit. And as a final point: if we in these islands weren’t already protected by a moat, my guess is we’d be in the wall-building business too.

  5. w.b.robertson says:

    Mr Sangster seems to possess a more realistic understanding of human nature than the usual contributer. Where I was brought up, many many years ago in darkest Fife, my mother would have voted to build a wall to keep out the folks who inhabited the village just a bike ride up the hill. And if she had daughters rather than sons I doubt she would have let any of them sally forth at weekends!

    1. David Sangster says:

      Aye, Mr Robertson, good fences make good neighbours, and distance sweetens the view : you can’t beat folk wisdom. An’ come the weeken’ I bet ye rade oot tae batter th’ hillies!

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