Even when our passports remain safely tucked away, the enduring power of travel can still connect us. It can remind us that we share much more than our media, and sadly, sometimes our governments, lead us believe. In 2007, the German filmmaker Arnd Wächter brought four college-age Americans to Morocco to join four Moroccans of similar age for a week-long tour of their country. Wächter was raised in East Germany and the documentary is his response to 9/11 and of the Iraq war. He realized that one way he could bring about dialogue and understanding was to bring young people from different corners of the world together. The result is Crossing Borders, a 70-minute award winning documentary.
The premise behind the documentary was not so much that the students travel together – although they do and there are some beautiful images – but that as they travel, they talk. They talk about Islamic perceptions of the West and vice versa, the war in Iraq and the role of women in Arab society.
Wächter’s creative use of the camera allows us, the viewers, to watch as the eight students demonstrate the power of curiosity and empathy to triumph over fear and judgement when they, as travelers, are willing to open their hearts and minds to new ways of seeing each other and the world.
The film’s ending takes place at the barbed wire barrier between Morocco and Ceuta, a Spanish city on North Africa soil. The European Union financed barrier’s stated purpose is to stop illegal immigration from Morocco to Spain and beyond. It is here, at the films ending where the Moroccan students, who because of where they were born, are unable to cross the barrier and are left to simply wave goodbye. And it’s here that we understand that a week together has changed each student in ways they couldn’t have imagined. Travel has much to teach us about the power of communicating and seeing the world through the eyes of others.
In conclusion, this powerful documentary that Wächter has brought to campuses around the world creates dialogue and reminds students and, indeed all who watch, that we are bound by our similarities, not our differences.
Crossing Borders was selected at International Film Festivals including:
Illinois International Film Festival 2009 (Winner: “Best International Feature Documentary”)
Honolulu Film Festival 2010 (Winner:“Gold Kahuna Award”)
Los Angeles Global Film Festival 2010 (Winner: “Best Documentary)
Thessaloniki Documentary Festival 2010 (Selected for screenings funded by the Greek Ministry of Education.)
DocMiami International Film Festival 2010 (Official Selection)
Awareness Festival 2010 (Official Selection)
Charlotte Film Festival 2010 (Official Selection)
FILManthropy Festival 2010 (Official Selection)
Utopia Film Festival 2010 (Official Selection)
Atlanta International Documentary Film Festival 2010 (Official Selection)