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