Friday, September 08, 2006

postheadericon Incha Allah Dimanche (2001) - a review and a rant

In the aftermath of World War 2, France attempted to replenish its weakened work force by recruiting men from North Africa, in particular, Algeria. In the mid-1970’s, the French government relaxed its immigration policy to allow the families of Algerian men to join them. INCH ALLAH DIMANCHE provides us with a deeply moving memoir of the sense of isolation and vulnerability that the immigrant family experienced upon their arrival at a time when racial integration was virtually non-existent.

I found this movie extremely moving and it's no doubt because I could identify with the main character, an Algerian wife and mother, Zouina who was forced to leave her family and friends behind in Algeria to join her husband in a country that was so alien and unfriendly to her. She is so lonely that the minute she hears of another Algerian family in the neighborhood she plots (her husband doesn't like her to leave the house) to go visit them. When she does find the family she is greeted warmly enough, but the minute the lady (Mallika) realizes that Zouina is there without her (Zouina's) husband's permission, she goes ballistic and throws her out the door. This scene might seem overdone and highly dramatic to a lot of viewers, but many immigrants, after they move to a new country, seem to enter a time warp. They do not keep up with the times and the changes in their home country and are thus far more traditional than their people back home. To simplify, I find some of the Indians I meet in Canada hold the traditions and values that people in India held over 20 years ago. It can be quite weird!

Last year in Toronto there was a spate of suicides among young women from Vietnam and Sri Lanka( the motivating factor, the medical people say, was depression). Upon further investigation it was found that the one common thing between these women is that they were all recent immigrants! Something more needs to be done to make integration easier for these young men and women that come from countries so different from their host countries. In our globalized world, immigration and relocation is not just beneficial to the immigrant but also to the host country ( a lot of countries in Europe have an aging and negative growth population and are in desperate need for young families). Immigrants bring in a lot of money, young blood and important and much needed work skills. It is our responsibility to see that they feel welcome and are able to integrate quickly and painlessly. I am sure well-meaning people will point out the scores of organizations (charitable and government- run) that help with integrating immigrants, but it's not enough to just teach them English and give them a set of skills, we need to to have social programs where they can meet people who have the potential to be "friends" to these people. Loneliness can be a terrible thing. While work is fine, what gets these people is their inability to meet and socialize with people in the long evening hours or on the weekends.

I do apologize for the rant but this is a cause that is very close to my heart. I have contacted the appropriate authorities and have volunteered to set up a social program - they have promised to "look into it". This was 2 years ago.

But to return to the movie, it is a splendid effort with each of the actors (children included) playing their part to perfection. I have read that this award-winning film is based on director Yamina Benguigui's own experience growing up as the child of immigrant parents amid the tumult of Arab assimilation and the women's rights movement in France. The music is Algerian and hauntingly beautiful and I will miss not being able to listen to it on a CD. I will not miss seeing the hideous furniture and wallpaper from the '70's however!


La Gringa said...

I followed your profile to this blog and plan to come back to read everything. Fascinating.

I can identify with the depression that comes from immigrating to another country. After 5 years, I still suffer from occasional bouts. It's tough when you don't seem to fit in the local community or the expatriate community either.

Thanks for a great article.

Lotus Reads said...

Thank you for visiting this "my other blog" as I like to call it. :)

I am very grateful I found your blog, as an immigrant, it is balm to my soul to read about the joys and trials of other people in similar situations. Also, you have a delightful blog and I look forward to learning more about Honduras from your posts.

abha said...

Hi Lotus,
Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment as well.I am new to blogging, and it is wonderful to get a response.
As for this writing of yours on immigration, it is something which 'globalization' has not been able to deal with at all.
My personal experience has shown(through my interactions with cousins and aunts in the U.S., and Algerians and other people of African orignin in Paris)that these issues are just not given importance enough, but are very much there.
It is the 'kauva chale hans ki chaal'syndrome,to put it crudely, and then feeling that you belong nowhere.


Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Abha!

Lovely to see you here! Yes, it's true, in the end immigrants are a displaced people, belonging neither here nor there. I was told by a Korean friend whose parents migrated to Germany when she was a baby that she is treated very badly when she returns to Korea on holiday - seems like they no longer consider her Korean and then, her German compatriots do not consider her German...sad.

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