Film series: Migration Stories

Student working on film projector

image from film THE RIVER AND THE WALL

image from the film The River and the Wall

Cornell’s Migrations Initiative partners with Cornell Cinema to screen three documentary films that offer global, multi-species perspectives on migration and borders, revealing the interconnectedness of human migration, culture, and ecology.  In these films, human borders crossing over land, river, and sea affect and are shaped by the movements of animals, goods, ideologies, and cultural and agricultural practices. In following these movements, we also confront the forces that threaten to bring them to a halt.  

Strange Fish takes us to Tunisia and the Mediterranean, where director Giulia Bertoluzzi follows a group of fishermen who have been rescuing migrants and burying the dead for two decades. The Zarzis-based fishing collective responds to a struggling local economy, changing fishing routes, and questions of injustice as migrants are abandoned at sea.  Director Giulia Bertoluzzi won the 2017 Media Migration Award for the film and she will join a discussion with Amade M’charek, Professor of Anthropology of Science at the department of Anthropology of the University of Amsterdam; and Eleanor Paynter, postdoctoral associate in migrations at Cornell on Tuesday, March 2 at 12pm EST.

In The River and the Wall, directed by Ben Masters, a group of five friends—including Heather Mackey (Cornell ’10)—travels along the Rio Grande, where the US border wall threatens to disrupt ecosystems. As they travel through the borderlands, they encounter some of the realities behind popular narratives about undocumented migration. The River and the Wall was nominated for an Austin Film Critics Association award and received the 2019 Jefferson State Flixx Fest award for best documentary. Heather Mackey ’10, ecologist and cast member, will be joined by Debra Castillo, Emerson Hinchliff Chair of Hispanic Studies and Professor of Comparative Literature and director of the Latino/a Studies Program at Cornell; and Sergio Garcia-Rios, Assistant Professor of Government and Latina/o Studies, Cornell University, on Tuesday, March 23 at 12pm EST.

Wild Relatives follows a group of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and in Svalbard, one of the planet’s northern-most inhabited islands, as the refugees attempt to rebuild the seed bank they had to leave behind when they fled Aleppo. Director Jumana Manna is the recipient of the New Visions Award from CPH: DOX 2018; Ars Viva Prize for Visual Arts 2017; Sandefjord Kunstpris, 2015; and the A.M. Qattan Foundation’s Young Palestinian Artist Award 2012. Schedule permitting, she will join a discussion with Johanna Sellman, assistant professor in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at the Ohio State University; and Rachel Bezner Kerr, Professor of Global Development at Cornell University, on Tuesday, April 13 at 12pm EST.

More information about each film's panelists, as well as links to register for the panels, can be found on the individual film pages (linked from this page).  If you have further questions, contact series organizer Eleanor Paynter:

Related films

image from the film Strange Fish

Strange Fish


image from the film The River and The Wall

The River and The Wall


image from the film Wild Relatives

Wild Relatives