It was 1989 when Sheikh, then 23, set out from Gambia and wound up in Italy somewhat by chance. By 1990 he’d moved to Torino, where he was a factory worker in the metal and mechanical industry for 12 years. As a result of layoffs, he became an operator at a call centre. Today he works as an office employee. He is married to Sara, a psychologist from Milano. They have two children, Momodoù (age 4) and Iboù (age 2). In 2004, after 15 years of spotless residence on Italian soil, he was granted citizenship. Sheikh is an Italian citizen. Preparations for the whole family’s departure for a visit to Gambia provide the introduction to a film that begins with their arrival at Serekundà, the city Sheikh was born in. His whole family welcomes him –father, mother, sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews, other relatives, friends. A large clan, typical of extended families in Africa. As we talk with and get to know Sheik, we’ll see how much he’s changed since first coming to live in Italy more than 2 decades ago. His persona is the result of the blending of two very different cultures. The film offers direct access to the “cultural” gap Sheik had to “fill” in order to achieve positive results in the area of integration.
Many people claim to be against racism and discrimination. In reality, in Italy today there are relatively few who enjoy relationships with people of different races. This may be due to the fact that foreign immigrants began flowing into Italy later than in other European countries, and the phenomenon has become widespread only since the mid-1980s. This lack of “direct contact” has led to a situation of “reciprocal ignorance” that may be the source of problems at the social level.
This documentary aims to provide people with no direct experience or contact with immigrants – i.e., people who cannot count a single immigrant among their list of friends – with cues for reflection on what it means, in a person’s existence, to be forced to integrate into a society very different from one’s own. The film also opens up the discussion of social realities that are very different from those in today’s Italy and, indeed, are unknown to most people here.
The project is aimed at a broad-based target: high school and university students, young people involved in cultural integration, teachers participating in refresher courses, documentation centres and video archives, film festivals and theme-based documentary series.