Maddie Daly | Wednesday, April 10, 2013
For my French class “Formes d’inclusion et d’exclusion,” forms of inclusion and exclusion, we were invited to attend a screening of the 2009 documentary “Crossing Borders.” Although the film was in English, it addressed exactly the issues we have been discussing in class all semester: What defines identity and how do people with different identities relate to each other?
The documentary follows a group of American college students through their journey to Morocco where they spent a week getting to know a group of Muslim Moroccan students. The goal of the film is to break down the wall between these two cultures and get rid of any stigmas that come with either race.
The beginning features interviews with each of the eight students about their hopes for the trip and their preconceptions of the opposite country. The overall attitude of the Americans is fear, anxiety and tentativeness. Although all four American students are open to this unique opportunity, they mention comments from parents worrying about their safety among Muslims as well as their doubts about the success of the experiment. On the other hand, the Moroccans, while still nervous, express far more excitement and anticipation. They are pleased to the have the opportunity to show the Americans who they really are, not who they are thought to be by the media.
One of the students, Fatah, points out two typical Moroccan stereotypes, asking “do [the Americans] still think Moroccans ride camels? Do they still think Moroccans are terrorists?” Although not one of the eight students, a young Moroccan man is interviewed, saying that “many people think that everyone here in Sidi Moumen is only a vagabond and drug addict.” From the outside, these parts of Morocco may look like slums holding homeless criminals, but the film strives to prove otherwise. The conversations between the eight students bring light to each of their individual personalities, and the friendships that develop seem strong enough to last a lifetime.
At first, the conversations between the groups of students were shallow and distant, but once the students got to know each other they became comfortable and talked about personal feelings and ideas. One of the most striking scenes shows the group of eight sitting in a circle, tears running down their faces as each one confesses his or her biggest struggle, fear or weakness. This moment shows how truly connected the students became after just a few days together. They all feel comfortable revealing these personal attributes with each other, and we become convinced that the cultural wall has been torn down.
The relationship between two of the students, David and Rochd, is given special attention and highlights the absolute dissolution of the “border” between the two cultures. These two students in particular form a special bond that arises from their shared humor and bright personalities. They joke together, laugh together and yet are still able to talk seriously and find the root of the problem of the cultural border.
David describes Rochd as a full force, taking up all of your attention and completely capturing you with his presence. At the very end of the film, as David is back in his New York apartment, Rochd prank calls him, bringing David to unstoppable laughter and showing the deep friendship formed after just a week together. This ends the film with a sense of hopefulness that the results of the experiment will be permanent.
Because the students in this documentary are around the same age as us, it was especially empowering and inspirational. After finishing the 70-minute film, I thought about what my experience would be like if I were to join a similar experiment, and I gain more respect for all eight students for being brave enough to face such a challenge. Simply put, the documentary captured my attention and sparked my interest in the cultural borders present all around the world.