Io sto con la sposa (On the bride’s side), what about you?

Io sto con con la sposa, 2014. Photo by Marco Garofalo.

Find out for yourself and become one of the producers of the first documentary that is also an act of civil disobedience. Take part in the crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.

A crowded bar, a trumpet, music. Smartly dressed people chatting away as their hands move to the beat. Many are eating while others are toasting. They are celebrating but we don’t know why. A beautiful girl appears, dressed in white. So it must be a wedding they are celebrating. We look around at the men’s faces – where’s the groom? Our gaze returns repeatedly to a young boy, who slowly becomes the protagonist of the scene. Everyone starts to clap their hands together, they urge him on, they call out to him: Manar. He smiles, maybe he’s even slightly embarrassed, but as soon as he picks up the microphone any hint of shyness disappears. He starts rapping in Arabic:

“Let me sing, my heart is bursting. The words will come and a mic won’t be enough. I’ll never stop, I won’t even leave a word. I won’t turn back, I want to go forwards! Fuck the society, are you with me or against me?”

It feels like the start of a good movie where a character that is just a little older than a child speaks clear-headedly to the viewer, calling upon us as he sings about himself. Partially that’s the way it is, because Manar’s words sum up much of the sense of what we are seeing: the urgency to say and do things and head off in a direction we will never want to turn back from. And then there’s that choice that leaves no room for ambiguity: whose side are you on? Are you with me or against me?!
The scene is one of the first extracts from Io sto con la sposa, a project that is at once a documentary, a playful farce and a self-denunciation of an act of civil disobedience.

Io sto con la sposa tells the story of a real journey of 30,000 km by a group of people between 14 and 18 November 2013, and a fiction inspired by the question: “What customs officer would ever stop a wedding party to ask the bride for her documents?”.  All of the protagonists of the documentary travelled across Europe staging a wedding procession, amongst them Manar – an 11 year-old who wants to become a rapper – and Abdallah, Alaa, Mona, Ahmed and Tasnim: five Syrian refugees that escaped from the war and reached Lampedusa from where they will be heading to Sweden to ask for political asylum. With them are 19 adventure companions, including the authors of the film – director Gabriele Del Grande, the poet and graphic designer Khaled Soliman Al Nassiry and director Antonio Augugliaro – who decided to risk a 15-year jail sentence for aiding and abetting illegal immigration to help them cross the borders. And then the many people they met during the journey who took them in, gave them shelter and helped them. All of them together decided to commit an illegal act according to the international laws that want Europe to become a fortress and make certain people ‘illegal’, preventing their movement, even when they are escaping from a war, even when this war is next door, like the one in Syria. The very same laws which by closing the borders have turned the Mediterranean in to a mass grave, as Gabriele Del Grande has been reporting for years on the pages of Fortress Europe.

Once the dream of the five people heading to Sweden was fulfilled, the authors set themselves on another journey: that of covering the self-production costs, finishing the editing and presenting the film at the following Venice Film Festival. On this occasion the procession got together and advanced across the web with the biggest crowdfunding campaign in the history of Italian documentary making, which in just over a week achieved an incredible result that only numbers are able to truly represent: more than 1.200 donations; 52% of the requested contribution already achieved; more than 9.700 users on the main Facebook page and circa 2.600 shares; 25.000 views of the trailer on YouTube.

Hundreds of other people are riding the wave following the project on the English and Arabic pages and the media buzz continues thanks to the reviews of broadcasters and newspapers in Italy and abroad that reported on Io sto con la sposa, including: the Franco-German channel Arte,Repubblica, Vita,  Rai News 24, Zaman Al Wasl, Raseef 22, Unimondo,Huffington Post and many more. There were also many in-depth analyses and special features. Like the articles on Doppiozero, that published the first part of a weekly diary written by Valeria Verdolini, a sociologist of jurisprudence and activist that took part in the wedding procession, allowing us to get a behind the scenes look. In this first chapter, we meet the group, discover their initial fears and develop the sudden certainty of ‘wanting to be a part of this’ after meeting Manar. After its first piece on the campaign launch, Redattore Sociale also dedicated an article to the youngest protagonist of the documentary and his story and, a few days later, published a letter written by Marta Bellingreri, a cultural mediator who works with underage migrants, who was also a voluntary ‘accomplice’ for the journey. Moreover,Internazionale followed the step-by-step developments of Io sto con la sposa and the behind the scenes activities through an article and a photo album that documented the shooting’s making-of.

Finally, Core Online interviewed Gabriele Del Grande to speak about why this endeavour was documented in a film that is both a political act of self-denunciation and a reversal of the standard imagery, as through a celebration it recounts the story of another Europe, the one that welcomes and wants to show the world of international politics that it is possible to conceive different solutions. You just need to imagine them. “For a group of twenty-three people it’s not easy to find a place to sleep and eat.” – explains Del Grande – “During the four nights we were out we found people that were willing to house us in every city, people that were curious to hear our stories and take part in this project which was a little crazy, a little rebellious and subversive.”

The bride’s journey has got this far. It is a small yet significant part of its route that is still ongoing thanks to the people who are responding directly to Manar’s question and are choosing whose side to be on, by becoming producers from the bottom up and donating. lettera27 and theArchivio delle Memorie Migranti (Archive of Migrant Memories) are on the bride’s side – what about you?