The first time I set foot inside the waiting room of Bardonecchia station it was almost Christmas. There was a frantic coming and going given the holiday period. As everything flowed around, half a dozen boys waited.
Their goal was to cross the border, to go to France or beyond.
And it was in that first contact, the one in which you overcome the impasse and say “Everything all right? Do you need anything? ”, right at that moment the story was born.
Or at least the need to tell it.
The media present that we live in depicts the migration issue through a stereotyped and rhetorical narrative, where the humanitarian and security emergencies overlap within the large political container aimed at addressing the sentiments of European public opinion.
A toxic tale where the “migrant” becomes a category of depersonalization and denial, a threat for the identitarian point of view, something that legitimizes a police approach to the question.
Hence the choice to deconstruct (and rebuild) starting from the territory and its historical, social and geographical characteristics, which in no way can be split with respect to the relationship with the border. We are used to thinking of the mountains as a physical barrier, a “natural border”. There is no doubt that they actually represent an obstacle for men to cross.
But there is a second, deeper, truth which places the Alps as a place that has always been accustomed to virtuous contamination, that is, to exchanges between the bottom and the top, between populations with very different cultures and lifestyles.
A hinge therefore, certainly not a barrier.
The communities, part of the same thousand-year-old Alpine civilization, have been separated and lined up on opposing fronts by a new and artificial frontier over the centuries, nevertheless managing to preserve very ancient community forms and mutual assistance practices.
The choice was to start from the stories of the inhabitants of the mountains, of those who today, just as as yesterday, believe that no one should be left behind, that there is no color of the skin, a piece of paper, a foreign language, which can determine who is to help and who is not.
Anyone who treads the snow of the paths every evening in search of someone who has never been known, whose name is unknown, but who must not be left alone in the face of yet another dangerous journey, knows that the most virtuous of the human feelings, of those who make their lives available to others, are not buried in a nostalgic and distant past, but live today, here and now.
Yet from the central Mediterranean border to the Alps, it is no longer necessary to have committed a crime or to be a presumed criminal, it is enough to be suspected of being human to be hit, criminalized, condemned.
In this sense, the recovery of memory undertaken in the path of the film is not intended to be a rhetorical exercise (i.e. “when we were the immigrants”), but rather a re-actualization of it through the gestures and practices that live until now.
In no way can we separate the relationship between the border and the territory where it is located.
During the 1900s the economy of the high mountains underwent a radical transformation process. The infrastructures have made the plain more “close”, all while the cement devoured the slopes and tourism replaced the agricultural economy of these areas.
Today the migratory route of the western Alps crosses the ski area of ”La via Lattea”, 400km of ski slopes that run along the entire area of the border between Italy and France.
In a story with strong contrasts, as always are those that take place on the borders, the image of the white of the slopes on which thousands of people ski trampling the border, contrasts with the black of the night, in which the two countries now emptied of tourists become hunting ground for the French gendarmes: a place of danger, violation of human rights and violence.
A perfect metaphor for modern civilization, where goods and profits travel fast while people risk dying from the “wrong” skin color on borders. Places that are no longer just dotted lines on maps, but walls of armies and policemen, of concrete and brick, of laws and persecutions.
The “migrants”, wandering ghosts with no name or face, are only a statistical number. The denial of their existence is the pillar on which the social order and the state of “normality” of these places are based. There are no migrants, there is no border.
The border device makes its face explicit.
Why not try to challenge it in its contradictions, that is, through the privilege with which it feeds and feeds?
Desire is the forestep of will, it is the foundation on which action is based.
When you want something, you want to achieve it at all costs: here the desire turns into a goal.
Desires move men and make the world go round. Differently from one may think, desires do not encourage delusion, they don’t pull us away from the realistic perception of things: rather, desires are a response to the need of believing change possible, even in situations of objectively complicated reality.
Every human being has the right to a free existence, in the place he or she sees fit, and has the right to fight to stay there.
We must let all these people know that they are not alone, that their pain and their rage is visible, that their resistance is supported.
We must walk together, because nobody is saved by themselves, here or anywhere else.