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The Maghreb Connection - Publication

Sudeuropa examines the ways in which European and Italian immigration policies materialize on location by reconfiguring space, time and the daily life of the Italian island Lampedusa.

Cliffs filmed from the sky, taken from a TV program about regional folklore and broadcast on the Italian Canale 5 Mediaset, introduce the video. A female voice reports the words of the host who animated this show. These are vaunting the beautiful panorama, the Mediterranean sea, the wonderful landscape, propitious for holiday pleasures on the Italian island Lampedusa, the southern limit of the national territory. We can understand later that these images of the coastline at the same time attest to the surveillance of this territory. Filmed in close collaboration with the authorities, they actually trace the regular patrol routes of the military and police helicopters which secure the Italian border and prevent any uncontrolled arrival of people who left Tunisian and Libyan shores in order to reach Europe by boat.

On the cliff-top roads seen in the first sequence, on the beaches, in hotels, people are busy early in the morning or late at night. They drive to their work place, prepare food, clean rooms, place chairs and umbrellas, maintain the infrastructures that shape the tourist experience. The film makes visible the faces and the gestures of a few workers of the Maghrebian and Senegalese diasporas, who are involved in the tourism activities. The spaces that they cross and occupy while carrying out their daily work help to build the filmic space. In complicity and taking the camera into account, the workers allow access to reserved areas and disclose the backstage of the local tourist industry. One man, who changed his Arabic name into "Paolo" to avoid the ordinary racism, collaborated on texts that drew on anecdotes heard from inhabitants about the present situation on the island. "Paolo"/Abdelhamid Boussoffara, who studied acting in his youth, reads those texts in a self-reflexive Italian diction and interprets a cappella a vernacular song when all clients are out of the hotel.

Alternately, the film evokes the presence of undocumented migrants on the island, caught far off at sea by the police and coast guards, excluded from social life and made invisible in their detention in a camp by showing the places of their arrival, enclosure and deportation. The video focuses on these sites in which the movement of tourists and migrants intersect, as at the airport or the port, where a double regime of the circulation of people becomes apparent.

Two voice over narratives - one relating anecdotes told by islanders, the other describing the representations of migrants produced in the same location at the spectacularized instance of debarkation and deportation - problematize both invisibilization of migrants on the island, which is generated by the political will expressed in official discourses, and their over-visibility in the media, by re-elaborating fragments of the various political, media and advertising discourses relative to immigration and tourism.

The video foregrounds the conditions of production of the imagery of emergency: journalists and cameramen are embedded in the police dispositif which lines up the bodies, presents them in front of cameras, stages them. This situation gives shape to the usual figures of "clandestine immigrants in the southern borders of Europe". The video deconstructs these figures widely broadcast by the European and national media, which feed an imaginary of invasion as well as they prolong a western iconography that constructed the other in the act of representation.