Review: Adrift: People of a Lesser God (2010)

Struggles and triumphs of would-be immigrants

Adrift: People of a Lesser God is a documentary that shows us the harsh realities of life in Western Africa, where war hungry extremists are common and opportunities for a good life lie on distant shores. The film’s narrator is journalist Dominique C. Mollard. Mollard goes through various contacts (many of which are more than willing to take his money and disappear) as he travels from town to town in search of answers as to why people are so desperate to leave the area, what they hope to accomplish by going to Europe (namely Spain), and how to go about getting himself a ride on such a trip so that he can properly document the struggles these migrants go through.

What we see are people from every walk of life, public servants, mafia-like trafficking thugs, widows and small children, young adults with an education but no access to a job, and others who are just trying to get by on what little they have. Despite the hard life these people lead, those who want a better future for themselves and their country have a constant current of hope. Whether they leave today or in two years, they know that things will someday improve.

The resistance to be documented on camera by Mollard was common. While people were willing to share their experiences with the journalist, his white skin and his camera often caused anxiety amongst those he interviewed. Keeping their identities private was crucial to their day-to-day safety.

Not only are these people facing day to day struggles of living in a country that is underemployed, sometimes overeducated, and suffering the likes of trafficking, we see that those who do travel to Europe have an extremely hard time gaining entrance into other countries. With no criminal background or charges, these people are cast out of European countries like vermin. The opportunity at a new life is most often squandered as soon as they arrive on these distant shores, and still, people flock to the opportunity to try and start a new life.

When people do attempt to get to the Canary Islands from Western Africa, the journey is extremely dangerous. People travel by small fishing boats, most with no proper shelter or space, a run down engine and a lot of hope that they will make the nearly week long trip unscathed. These journeys are so trying, the people of western Africa refer to such a trip as a “fight”. It takes Mollard four attempts over an entire year to get himself a seat on a “fight”.

In the end of the documentary, Mollard poses a difficult question question to the film’s viewers. he questions, who really cares about Africa? He implies that while the rest of the world does make some efforts to help, the influence of the colonial times and cultural bias against African immigrants is too great. We have done too much irreversible damage. Still, Mollard leaves us with some hope, showing how those who went on the “fight” with him are faring after their journey.

Adrift: People of a Lesser God is shocking on many levels. I have never watched a documentary that made me feel more heartbroken for a person and as privileged to live in a place where my overall safety and basic needs will not be compromised. The film left me wondering what someone such as myself or our leaders can do to help those who have been cast such fate. How can we improve the lives of those who want to improve not only their own lives, but the lives of everyone within their community?

Adrift: People of a Lesser God is available on DVD on July 20th, 2015.

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