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Gomorra and Frozen River

16 February, 2009

It happens that a small “arthouse” (?) cinema in central Amsterdam is simultaneously screening two award-winning feature films that are in one way or another about illegal Chinese migration: Frozen River, a quite lyrical film about two women smuggling people from Canada to the US through an Indian reservation to make ends meet, and Gomorra, based on Roberto Saviano’s bestseller, in which the Camorra works with Chinese crime syndicates to bring in “slave labour”. Although both films reflect the general obsession with this trope, the way in which it is presented is very different.  

In Frozen River, everybody — perhaps even the migrants themselves, two of whom curse at the women because they don’t trust women drivers — have individual motives; there don’t seem to be either dupes or villains in the story (though the idea that somebody would pay $40 thousand to be smuggled into what they perceive is a struggling country strikes the women as crazy). Gomorra, by contrast, is full of victims, villains and heroes, and seems to be very much in sync with Italy’s current political trends that are more anti-immigrant, anti-South (I mean Italy’s South) and pro-strongman than probably at any time since World War II.

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