Burn the Sea / And We Will Throw the Sea Behind You

November 1 & 5, 2015
Hollywood Theatre
Portland, Oregon
for Cinema Project

There is a tradition in many Middle Eastern countries to throw water behind the steps of one who is leaving home with a wish that she or he returns in good health. To throw the sea is many wishes, but what does it mean to burn it? Two feature-length films in the experimental-documentary genre have come out of France in the past year taking on the topic of immigration from the Middle East to Europe. An international crisis and daily news item, the situation is large, complex, and for those embarking on the journey, dangerous and intensely personal. Burn The Sea uses co-director Maki Berchache’s own experience leaving Tunisia after the 2011 Jasmine Revolution as an entry point for discussing the experience of other North African migrants, or harragas, who attempt to find refuge in Europe. In And We  Will  Throw The Sea Behind  You, the collectively made work tells the intertwining stories of several migrants who travel from their homes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Morocco to a Greece in crisis and the chaotic streets of Istanbul, Turkey. These so-called “buffer zones,” however, highlight the intricacies and realities of how European law and policies can further complicate and disrupt the lives of migrants.

Part One:
Burn The Sea/Brûle la mer by Nathalie Nambot and Maki Berchache (France, 2014, 35mm, color, sound, 75 min.)
In French and Arabic with English subtitles; shot on Super8 and 16mm; presented on 35mm.

It is not a film about emigration or revolution, it is an essay on freedom, or rather an essay that stages freedom: a real and fictitious attempt to escape which involves the making of a film, taking part in the process of emancipation: burning the sea, borders, laws, papers, etc. —Balagan Film Series

From the seascapes of the North African Mediterranean to the streetscapes of Paris, this personal 16mm essay film explores the idealism and hard realities of departure and arrival. Stories of the post-revolution Tunisian diaspora in France, who “burned the sea” to leave, only to discover a new form of confinement in their liberation, provide a powerful meditation on personal revolution and freedom, and the compromises that face those whose mobility is a double-edged sword.

Maki, a young migrant Tunisian, who among many others, crossed the sea to Lampedusa (Italy) after the revolution, said to me one day: “History is only written about great people, us, we don’t exist.” Months later, we decided to write a piece of history together. Burn the Sea stands at the paradoxical crossroads between the dynamic energy of an ongoing revolution, the drive to set out for Europe, and the violence of being refused entry. The film seeks that which constitutes the sensitive core of a life at the moment of rupture. That which is tiny, common to us all, far from exoticism, but haunted by the dream, like a call. —Nathalie Nambot & Maki Berchache

About the filmmakers:

Up until 2009, Nathalie Nambot was mainly a French theater actress in addition to a film director. She studied at Toulouse University and campaigns for illegal migrants fighting against social exclusion and repression. Nambot is part of the L’Abominable artist-run film laboratory in La Courneuve, France.

Maki Berchache was born in Zarzis, Tunisia. He left school early and worked in several hotels and tourist complexes on the South East coast of Tunisia. He arrived in France just after the fall of Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011. He was introduced to cinema at L’Abominable by Nicolas Rey and Nathalie Nambot.


Part Two:
And  We  Will  Throw The Sea Behind  You / Et Nous jetterons la mer derrière vous by Noémi Aubry, Jeanne Gomas, Clément Juillard, and Anouck Mangeat (France, 2014, DCP, color, sound, 72 min.)
In Arabic, Farsi, French, and Turkish with English subtitles; shot on DV, HD, and Super8, presented as a DCP.


This film is a breakaway to the west which dives into the crossing of different roads: Aziz, Sidiqi, Housine, and Younes bring us into their journeys from Afghan or Moroccan homes to the chaos of a Greece in crisis and the streets of Istanbul. Between the lines, we can read their dreams and the hopes they carry with them. We travel with them through the stopping-off cities and frontier zones, these places themselves as large as countries.

This is the story of a Europe and its realities, its laws and policies.

This is a story of exile.

We call them migrant, kaçak, metanastes; but above all, they are women and men on the path of their lives. These paths are just beginning, and perhaps they won’t ever find an end.

And we throw all the water from the crossed sea behind their steps.

—filmmakers Anouck Mangeat, Clément Juilliard, Noémi Aubry, and Jeanne Gomas

About the filmmakers:

These four filmmakers have worked extensively as a collective on the topic of migration in Europe. After traveling to different cities and towns (Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey…) to understand the issues of migration, they put together an exhibition and made several short films including The Story of Dragon Eggs (2012) shot in Greece and The Recording Machine (2013) shot in Palestine, before finally completing the feature-length film And We Will Throw the Sea Behind You.


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