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Reviewed by:
  • 14 Kilometres
  • Felipe Gómez Isa (bio)
14 Kilometres, Director: Gerardo Olivares, Country: Spain (2007), Duration: 95 minutes

Fourteen kilometers is the geographical distance between the African continent and the South of Europe. It is, however, more than that. It also serves as the insurmountable obstacle that negates the dreams of millions of African teenagers who see the Western world as their only hope to escape from hunger, misery, and despair. 14 Kilometres, a movie that was awarded "Best Film" at the Seminci Festival (Valladolid, Spain, 2007), wisely combines fiction and documentary to explore the human dimensions (and, unfortunately, inhuman dimensions) of the dramatic adventure of Sub-Saharan African migration to Europe. This journey can last months or even years, and all too often the final destiny is death—either in the sands of the desert or in the dangerous waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

The film 14 Kilometres is based on the story of Violeta Sunny, Buba Kanou, and Mukela Kanou, who represent an entire generation of African young people whose only desire is to migrate to Europe. Violeta escapes from a forced marriage with a much older man of her village and his repeated sexual abuse; Buba wants to be a football (soccer) star for one of the leading European teams, and he travels the entire way with a t-shirt of Real Madrid and a foot ball; and the third traveller is Mukela, Buba's brother, who is responsible for convincing his brother to leave his village and make the journey but who ultimately dies in the harsh desert.

The three initiate their odyssey in Niger, crossing the Tenere and the Saharan deserts until they reach the Moroccan coast, where only two of them finally [End Page 1060] make it to their imagined "promised land." In the course of their trip they face police corruption, the severity and cruelty of the desert, and unscrupulous human traffickers. However, they also experience the solidarity of the peoples of the desert, the Touareg. One of the culminating moments of the film is when a Touareg leader addresses Violeta and Buba with these words: "the future is here, in Africa." This is one of the subliminal messages that the author wants to convey: migration is not the solution to the collective tragedy that the African continent is suffering. There are a number of remarkable aspects of this film. One is the stunning beauty of the cruel desert itself. Another is the film's commitment to human beings and its capacity to illustrate the human suffering involved in the hard and extenuating migration process, a perspective that has not received much attention so far. As the Spanish writer Rosa Montero declares in the final scene of the movie: "They will keep coming and will keep dying, since history shows that there is no wall with the capacity to stop dreams."

As a postscript, at the time of writing, May 2008, more than 1,200 Sub-Saharan migrants, including little children, are living in the surroundings of the Moroccan city of Oujda, fifteen kilometers away from the Algerian border, waiting for their opportunity to start their hazardous sojourn once again. They face extreme conditions, and survival depends on mutual solidarity and the support of NGOs. But, as a woman from Nigeria says, "I will try it again." Highly recommended

Felipe Gómez Isa

Felipe Gómez Isa, Professor of Public Inter-national Law and researcher at the Institute of Human Rights of the University of Deusto (Bilbao, the Basque Country, Spain).



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pp. 1060-1061
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