Marking the UN’s World Refugee Day (20 June) and as part of Spitalfields’ multi-venue celebration of the lives and culture of all immigrant communities, the programme includes artists’ films, shorts and documentaries exploring migrant experience globally.
2pm Orson Nava, Everyday Borders, 2015 (50 mins)
Everyday Borders examines the impact of the 2014 immigration act on British society, exploring the way the ‘Border’ is increasingly entering into everyday life. Increasing numbers of people are becoming border-guards as employers, landlords, health workers and educators are legally required to administer the UK border as part of their everyday lives. As the 2014 Immigration Act pulls more people into border-guard roles, those who are their subjects experience being denied jobs, accommodation, healthcare and education because these border administrators may not be able or willing to understand the complexities of immigration law, may act on racist stereotypes or, threatened by fines and raids, exclude racialised minorities in order to minimize risk to themselves.
3pm Fernando Luis González Mitjáns, Limpiadores, 2015, (39 mins)
A student film charting the lives and struggles of cleaners at SOAS and other universities… After over more than eight years of campaigning, the cleaners at SOAS continue to demand being brought in-house. This film charts the history of their and others’ campaign from winning the London Living Wage to the deportation of nine colleagues and the day-to-day invisible labour of cleaners on our campus. The special premiere of the film was held in SOAS lecture theatre G3, renamed the Lucas Lecture Theatre by the campaign after the son of a pregnant cleaner was deported after immigration officers stormed a cleaners’ meeting held in the lecture theatre.
3.50pm Marc Isaacs,Calais: the Last Border, 2003 (59 mins)
Quietly building a body of work that is putting him among the most empathetic documentary observers we have of lives often overlooked, Isaacs here visits the port that had become by 2003 both an index of global economic and social realities and a new border in ways previously unimagined. He weaves portraits of various individuals – a young English bar owner, an elderly British couple facing hard times economically and Ijez, an Afghan asylum seeker who lost all his family in the bombing of Kabul and now finds himself sleeping rough after the demolition of Sangatte, the Red Cross holding camp at Calais – into a moving and melancholy overview of a port defined more than ever by the island it gazes at across the Channel. Anticipation and disquiet colour all these lives, and Isaacs is most skilled at never judging by appearances, teasing out the pains and occasional pleasures beneath the most daily of surfaces.
4.50pm Paul Blinkhorn, After Auschwitz, 2016 (12 mins)
A short film about survival, truth and reflection. It examines the emotional survival of one woman as she looks back on the choices that she has made in life. Hiding from the shadows of the past, Rebeka reflects on the paths not taken, of love lost and the moral obligations of being a survivor.
5.10pm Xiaowen Zhu,Oriental Silk, 2016 (30 mins)
Oriental Silk explores the worldview of the owner of the first silk importing company in Los Angeles. Carefully and quietly, the film observes this owner, Kenneth Wong, as he goes through his daily routine in the store and tells his story: how his parents, first-generation Chinese immigrants, realised the American dream through the store; how the once legendary store’s fortunes rose in close connection with the Hollywood entertainment industry, then fell with the proliferation of cheaper silk in the new global economy; how he himself came to be the owner of the shop and caretaker of the family legacy; and about his deep feelings for the shop, its history, and its future.