From its deliberately technocratic title to scenes of grainy security footage, Flow Mechanics speaks to the many ways in which debates over immigration render the experiences of those seeking refuge in Europe (and elsewhere) invisible. By combining stark footage with poignant testimonies, director Nathalie Loubeyre paints a bleak picture of the migrant crisis in Europe and the precarious lives of those living at the continent’s literal and figurative margins. The effect is mesmerizing. Starting with the ghostly images of faceless refugees appearing on a Croatian border patrol’s TV screen, the film makes it its job to take these people out of the shadows. Rather than choosing a single perspective to link her story, Loubeyre follows border guards, aid workers, morticians, and the migrants themselves to piece together the current conditions on the borders of Europe. At each stop, Loubeyre’s camera forces us to come to terms with our own dehumanizing gaze. In one particularly harrowing scene we hear from Africans living in a Tunisian port town and their efforts to reach Europe while the camera shows young men desperately climbing underneath moving trucks in an effort to smuggle themselves aboard a ferry to Italy.
There is little hope in this film, but even if you thought you knew the stories of Afghan, Syrian, and other refugees, this film will open your eyes... and force you to see them differently. -JC