Opening 26 Apr 2018
When Markus Imhoof was a child during World War II, his family took in a war refugee from Italy, a young girl named Giovanna. Using his personal experience hosting a refugee, Imhoof draws comparisons to the current state of affairs of the migrant crisis throughout Europe. From the coast guard boats in the Mediterranean to the farm ghettos of Italy, it is clear that many who come searching for a better life in Europe fail to find it.
While Imhoof’s documentary is clearly heartfelt, the parallels he tries to make between his personal experiences living with Giovanna, undercut the more complex issues surrounding modern mass migration. His personal story with Giovanna, interspersed with interviews with pro-refugee Swiss officials and successfully integrated refugees, makes the case for a more liberal policy. However, the scenes of newcomers on the ships in the Mediterranean are less convincing. Despite the professionalism of the Italian military, the amount of refugees coming is overwhelming and the boats are overcrowded. During one rainy evening, the refugees sitting out in the rain mutinied against the crew. In other scenes, men are refusing to be fingerprinted, knowing that once they land they plan to make their way illegally to northern European countries. Generally, there is an impression of massive amounts of men coming over the Mediterranean route, and instead of humanizing them, Imhoof’s framing of their behavior makes them seem more threatening than perhaps he realizes.
It is only once he expands on the theme to include some of the various ways that the Europeans and the EU are causing economic instability throughout Africa that the documentary begins to be interesting and less openly patronizing. Unfortunately, this aspect is only touched upon towards the end of the film and is not given the weight it deserves. Perhaps if Eldorado had been a film about the European involvement in the destabilization of economies around the world and how that influences mass migration, it could have really shaken up the preconceived notions people have about the crisis. Unfortunately, Imhoof decided to take the easy way out and created yet another lackluster film about refugees which panders to liberal sentiments and is unlikely to make any impact upon those still sitting on the fence. (Rose Finlay)