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      Mother's Crossing
    Living on the edge

    One Iranian family's clandestine border crossing, as they flee to Europe by way of Turkey, is the subject of the simple but meaningful documentary "Mother's Crossing."


    If Moudja the Arab were Mexican, he'd be contemptuously called a "coyote"; if Chinese, a "snakehead." But the Iraqi-born people-smuggler insists there's honor — even heroism — in his scorned business.

    Directed by: Lode Desmet.
    Produced by: Kathleen de Bthune.
    Cinematography: Lou Demeyere, Hans Debauw.
    Edited by: Marie-Hlne Dozo.
    Brooklyn Museum 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn Sat., June 5, 2004, 9 p.m.

    Brooklyn International Film Festival 2004
  • Overview
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  • Mother's Crossing
  • Official site
    He proudly recalls abused women whom he helped to a new life in Europe. Political refugees too. "If there had been no smugglers to help the Afghans flee to Iran, Turkey, Europe, who would have helped them?" he says to the camera. "It's thanks to the smugglers that all these parties composed of exiled political opponents exist in Europe."

    "Mother's Crossing" is a modest enough film — it simply shows one family's attempt to cross from Turkey into Greece — but it makes a big impression on the mind and heart. It is a valuable look into a world that everyone knows exists but which is, by its nature, hidden as deeply as possible in the dark.

    The family is that of an Iranian woman, Sima, who (as she tells it) had to flee beatings and rejection by her husband because she had the bad sense to bear him two daughters and no sons. "I was very, very young [when the first child was born]. The doctors didn't think that I could give birth at 13," she says. "It took me 20 years to find a way out."

    On top of the usual difficulties, the younger daughter is handicapped, and although she bounds around with surprising agility on crutches — or even on all fours, ape-style — nothing about this journey can be counted easy. In footage shot by the smugglers themselves with an infrared camera, we follow part of the group's trek through fields, past military encampments, through marshes, across a river and finally onto Greek soil, from which they can travel anywhere in the European Union. A scene when they stop to inflate a rubber raft was the point when it really sank in that they could easily be swallowed up by the river in the black of night and vanish forever in one fatal instant.

    It's not certain that there's a call to action implicit in this film. Should we campaign for tighter immigration controls or looser ones? Is there something we might do to help women escape oppressive situations like Sima's? Director Lode Desmet of Belgium says that in fact, Turkish and Greek authorities are under pressure from EU countries to block this clandestine immigration, so journeys like the one we see may become steadily more difficult and perhaps more dangerous. Regardless, the film gives us a powerful sense of what's involved in this hidden people-smuggling apparatus and makes us think twice about our preconceptions.

    JUNE 15, 2004

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