In the aftermath of the odyssey | A lesson in “welcomeness”

On paper, After the odyssey deals with migration and sexual slavery, in short, with broken dream lives. But beyond the story of this unspeakable human trafficking, between Nigeria and Italy via Libya, Quebec filmmaker Helen Doyle tells above all a story of welcome, resilience and frank sorority. In a word: a story of “welcome”.

Helen Doyle has been documenting the “feminine condition” (“and many other subjects!”) for more than 40 years, and her latest feature film, surprisingly gentle despite the violence of the subject and destinies, speaks about it. long on the filmmaker, who resolutely focuses her camera on the light, despite the “horror” behind it.

“Fifty years, my dear!” », Kindly corrects us the director, pioneer of women’s documentary, who co-founded with Hélène Roy and Nicole Giguère, in 1973, the Video femmes collective. Notice to those interested: the Cinémathèque québécoise has just published a large thematic file on the first 20 years of the collective.

Read the file here

How on earth did Helen Doyle come across this subject, certainly niche, but extremely topical? In fact, she explains, it is a follow-up to her previous film (In an ocean of images, which earned her the prize for best Canadian film at the Montreal International Art Film Festival in 2013, as well as a Gémeaux prize for best documentary the following year) that she had a significant meeting in Italy , with photographer Letizia Battaglia (died 2022), photojournalist well known for her work on the mafia. It was also around this time that she became aware of the “staggering” number of young unaccompanied migrants there. “Young boys, younger and younger,” who flee and cross the Mediterranean without parents. That’s also where she asked herself the question: “But… where are the girls?” »


Helen Doyle

Hence the investigation, sorry, the “quest” to dig into this real “immensely orchestrated” network which bamboozles the young girls of Nigeria, with promises of a better life elsewhere, its discovery of their harsh wakes by Libya before landing in Italy, often broken, and deeply in debt.

In the film, you have to hear a speaker explain that they are indeed being asked to reimburse the trip, a bill that can climb to 50,000 euros. How do they pay? By selling: 5 euros, the price of a coffee. “It hurts, doesn’t it?” », Helen Doyle shudders as she tells her story.

I was horrified. So I said to myself: I can’t keep quiet. I have to dig into the situation in Italy.

Helen Doyle, filmmaker

But After the odyssey is not a film about this “trafficking”, as we have said. Even less on this mafia. “It’s more of a film about Italian women, and the civil society that is mobilizing. It’s a film about solidarity” or “welcomeness”, as its assistant director so nicely described it, in Sicily. “Benevolence, sisterhood, almost immediately, I said to myself: that’s where I’m going,” confirms Helen Doyle. For what ? “Because I can’t make a film without hope,” she answers. There’s no point in making a film that’s just dark. »

Modest approach

This is how the filmmaker here hands the microphone to a number of women, researchers, humanitarian workers, even artists or journalists, who accompany these Nigerian women in their own way, in addition, of course, to following several migrants, even their daughters. We won’t tell you everything, but several journeys are poignant. “We save them and they save us,” said a humanitarian worker. “These women have a lot to bring us,” adds the filmmaker. These are women who got back on their feet! »

Making this journey at 14, experiencing the horror, getting out of there, and still having dreams, that’s a life lesson!

Helen Doyle, filmmaker

“And that gives you confidence: if we just give them a little chance, what will they be able to bring to society? »

Note that the “welcoming” people never ask for recognition here. “It’s the human being in front of them that interests them,” underlines Helen Doyle. It is otherness, the encounter with the other in all their difference. »

To wrap it all up, the filmmaker adopts a modest approach that is more impressionistic than explicit, leaving a lot of room for images of the sea and the sound of the waves, in particular. We also see several times shots of the famous Raft of Lampedusa, a committed work by sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor, dedicated to the migrant crisis in Europe. “That says it all,” says Helen Doyle. And I didn’t want it to be sensationalist, she explains. Making them victims is not helping them! »

His wish ? “I hope that a discussion will take place on violence against women, of course, but also on this trafficking which still exists today, sexual slavery in our countries. I hope we will have a discussion about the attitude of “welcomeness” and otherness. I ask questions because we all have to think together, and on both sides, she concludes. How do we welcome them? »

In theaters from Friday. Marina Orsini will host a discussion at the premiere of the film on February 9 at 7 p.m. at the Cinéma du Musée.

Consult this site for the schedule of screenings in the presence of the director


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