Halfway through the painful but beautiful Eldorado, an Italian humanitarian compares the journey of an African refugee to that of Dante Alighieri’s epic poem. First there is the hell of travelling north through Libya, crossing the Mediterranean, second there is purgatory, arriving in Italy and then finally the paradise of arriving in Northern Europe.
Director Markus Imhoof’s film begins with his childhood in Switzerland and his relationship with Giovanna, a young Italian refugee his family adopted during the war. The politics that tore him and his newfound sister apart are used as a critical lens to dissect the journey of African migrants arriving in Europe. Imhoof refers back to his perspective as a child, the confusion, trying to figure out why there are borders and why some countries are stable and others are not.
The documentary details the stages refugees experience upon arriving in Europe. The director spends time with the Italian coast guard responsible for rescuing them from the choppy seas and making sure they are healthy. Most of these people are shell-shocked or relieved to be on dry land but their expectations of Europe are soon dashed as they attempt to make a living. Eldorado slips into the refugee centres where the newcomers await the verdict on their destiny. Some are deported and others find menial work. Those who refuse deportation are welcomed by the mafia in clandestine work camps, where they live in squalor and toil for pennies.
The filmmaker harks back to his childhood, when he struggled to understand the mantra “Give us this day our daily bread”. Who is “us” he wondered as a little boy: me, my family the neighbours – what about his adopted Italian sister and her family. How far does it go? How many people need help?
Markus Imhoof probes this nebulous pilgrimage for a galvanising of humanity, focusing on the Europeans employed at every stage – those who commit to ensuring the safety of refugees as well as others who block them from entering their country. This expansive, necessary documentary plunges into the ugly realities of the refugee crisis, asking the difficult questions and answering them with a tender humanity.
Eldorado does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for Eldorado here: