A Palestinian poet and an Italian journalist meet five Palestinians and Syrians in Milan who entered Europe via the Italian island of Lampedusa after fleeing the war in Syria. They decide to help them complete their journey to Sweden – and hopefully avoid getting themselves arrested as traffickers – by faking a wedding. With a Palestinian friend dressed up as the bride and a dozen or so Italian and Syrian friends as wedding guests, they cross halfway over Europe on a four-day journey of three thousand kilometres. This emotionally charged journey not only brings out the stories and hopes and dreams of the five Palestinians and Syrians and their rather special traffickers, but also reveals an unknown side of Europe – a transnational, supportive and irreverent Europe that ridicules the laws and restrictions of the Fortress in a kind of masquerade which is no other than the direct filming of something that really took place on the road from Milan to Stockholm from the 14th to the 18th of November 2013.
The afternoon of 20th October 2013. Three friends meet at Porta Garibaldi Station in Milan for a coffee.
A young Palestinian man hears them speaking Arabic and asks them which platform the train to Sweden leaves from. They say there isn't a train to Sweden and invite him to join them for a coffee.
Abdallah tells them that he's one of the survivors of the shipwreck off Lampedusa that happened on the 11th of October and that he saw 250 people drown there in the sea. That evening on their way home Gabriele, Khaled and Tareq try to think what they can do about it and, a few days later, decide to contact to a film director friend of theirs.
“Why don't we have a wedding? What border policeman would ever stop a bride to check her documents?”. At first it seemed a joke, but the idea gradually took form – also because in the meantime they'd met another four Palestinians and Syrians in Milan, on their way from Lampedusa to Sweden.
All that remained was to find the bride – the first girl that said she would do it changed her mind, and the second one had left with a people smuggler. Tareq said he was prepared to dress up as a woman and then, on that very day, an old Palestinian friend turned up, Tasnim, and she agreed enthusiastically to do it.
But a wedding party needs guests if it's going to be convincing. On the 3rd of November, a list of the directors' trusted friends received an e-mail marked TOP SECRET. These ones said yes:
And in the same short time a film crew was put together.
At dawn on 14th November 2013, a group of 23 young people – Italians, Palestinians and Syrians, all smartly dressed as if really going to a wedding – gathered in front of Milan Central Station. People from both sides of the Mediterranean, ready to risk everything, together, to show that it can still be a sea that unites us.
A documentary and yet a political act, a real and yet fantastic story; "On the Bride's Side" is all these things at once. And, right from the start, the hybrid nature of the film dictated a number of specific choices. First of all, there was the script treatment: rather than writing dialogues and character parts, we organised the journey on the basis of scenes, imagining situations in which our characters, used to the presence of the cameras, could move freely.
The filming, therefore, always had to adapt to the needs of the political act, because we really had to get to Sweden – it wasn't just for the film. And we had to get there as quickly as possible. This obviously set an extremely demanding work rate: twelve hours a day in the car, scenes to shoot, files to download and, if we were lucky, three hours sleep a night. If there was one thing that stopped the crew from abandoning us on the very first day, it was the atmosphere that was created.
The fact that we were sharing a great risk and a great dream inevitably united us. And this experience also changed our way of seeing things and helped us in the search for a new perception of the border – for a language, which, without falling into the trap of victimism, was able to transform the monsters of our fears into the heroes of our dreams, the ugly into the beautiful and numbers into names.
Gabriele Del Grande
Khaled Soliman Al Nassiry
Story and Screenplay
Gabriele Del Grande
Khaled Soliman Al Nassiry
Tasneem Fared, Abdallah Sallam, MC Manar, Alaa Bjermi, Ahmed Abed, Mona Al Ghabr, Gabriele Del Grande, Khaled Soliman Al Nassiry, Tareq Al Jabr, Marta Bellingreri, Rachele Masci, Chiara Denaro, Valeria Verdolini, Elena Bissaca, Ruben Bianchetti, Daniele Regoli, Marco Garofalo, Silvia Turati, Gina Bruno.
Sound design and sound editing
Original Sound Track
Mosè - C.O.V.