“If only a single person, or just one family, will be affected by this film, it will have been worth doing it,” says Alfie Nze, who, together with Daniele Gaglianone, co-wrote and directed Granma, a 30-minute film that will premiere in August at the Locarno Film Festival.
The protagonist, Jonathan, is a young rapper from Lagos, Nigeria. At the beginning of the film we see him recording a new song when a phone call from a relative informs him that his cousin Momo died while trying to reach Europe. He now faces a long trip in the company of his grandmother to the heart of the country, where Momo’s own grandmother lives, in order to break the sad news to her.
Granma was produced by Gianluca Arcopinto and Horace on behalf of IOM — the International Organization for Migration — and is part of the awareness program Aware Migrants.
The program, in the words of the Italian Deputy Prefect Carmelita Ammendola, “was born a year ago in order to provide with reliable information, in contrast with the lies of the human traffickers, the citizens of those Sub-Saharan and Mediterranean African Countries where most of the migrants come from.”
“Our goal is not to discourage the people from leaving their home countries,” adds IOM’s Giulia Falzoi, “but rather to inform them, to clarify how the trip is not going to be as in the traffickers’ promises. Quite the opposite: It will be filled with peril and abuse and poses a threat to the migrants’ very lives.”
What Gaglianone, for his part, cares to underline is rather the inherent injustice of the migrants’ tragedy: “This phenomenon also is the outcome of the system’s profound injustice, which doesn’t allow free movement for the people. The awareness campaign is very important, but it is also necessary to always keep these premises in mind.”
Shooting the film with Nze — a Nigerian director who lives in Italy — has been “essential,” says Gaglianone, “since Granma is entirely set in Nigeria and shot by a troupe of locals.” And also because, adds Nze, “In order to tell this story, the point of view of a person who lived it was required: I haven’t heard from my own cousin, who I grew up with, since 1994. He also disappeared while attempting to reach Europe.”
To Gaglianone, Granma has also been the occasion to work once more — 20 years after Così ridevano — with Gianni Amelio, who wrote the original subject for the film. However, explains Gaglianone: “We have decidedly detached ourselves from that original project, mainly in terms of setting, which was originally meant to be in Northern Africa.”
“And also bringing women to the fore,” adds Nze. “In fact, in Amelio’s subject the protagonist had to break the news to his grandfather, while in Black Africa fathers are almost a foreign body within the society. The fundamental figure is that of the mother.”
The Granma project also gave birth to the music video Challenging Death. The film will not only be screened in Europe, but above all in those African countries where most migrants are from. Countries that “are not reached by true information about traveling to Europe: only by fragments of stories told by those who made it, who sometimes can be seen driving around in their home villages on broken down Mercedeses,” says Nze.
But as Gaglianone reminds us, the deterring power of truth doesn’t cure injustice.