“… it’s a place I call home, although I blend in only as a familiar stranger.”
Evaporating Borders, written and directed by Iva Radivojevic, is a five-act exploration of asylum-seekers in Cyprus.
Beginning with a personal, essayistic voiceover and lush compositions, the film’s first act also uses subtly executed re-enactments of events in order to establish a first-person connection with the viewer. This not only creates a sense of intimacy through the film’s introductory segment, but also amplifies the increasing depersonalization and dehumanization portrayed throughout the remainder of the film.
The documentary moves from the first segment’s depictions of the struggle to arrive in Cyprus through a sense of being trapped between a place in which it is impossible to advance and one where it is impossible to return to, then continues on to an exploration of xenophobia and racism, making increasing use of traditional interviews and news-style footage as it progresses.
The fourth segment, billed as an exploration of identity, is the exception to the other parts. Replete with lovely close-ups of small details – a rosary, a foot tapping in time to music, a dog’s hind legs splayed out on the floor, the frets of a guitar – this chapter is notable for its emphasis on those who do want to return to where they came from, but are being held against their will in the very place so many others are fighting to remain.
Described elsewhere as a visual essay, Evaporating Borders is not a true essay film in the purest sense of the term. By giving its subjects a voice, rather than allowing the narrator to speak exclusively, the film breaks with pure essay form, but these sequences also serve as more readily accepted evidence of systemic, structural discrimination faced by migrants in Cyprus than the first-person claims of an unseen narrator would offer. In this sense, the break with essay form is more valuable than strict adherence would be.
On the whole, this film has more in common with Michael Glawogger’s Workingman’s Death in terms of its five-part structure plus a poetic coda, as well as the filmmaker’s uncanny ability to find the cinematic beauty in everyday surroundings, than with a “purer” essay film like Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil.
See it if: You are interested in transnationalism and/or a sense of being somewhere and nowhere at once; if you like exquisite compositions and hypnotic sound design; or, if like me, you are a giant nerd for the editing in Jim Jarmusch’s films (Jay Rabinowitz, the consulting editor here, also worked on many of Jarmusch’s works).
Kristi Kouchakji has a wickedly dark sense of humour, despite the above. Crack her up with wittily inappropriate memes and one-liners on Twitter at @badyogi.