Thursday, September 10, 2015

Life Imitates Art: "The March" (BBC-TV, 1990)

Media coverage of the current "migrant crisis" in Europe is eerily reminiscent of The March, a 1990 BBC-TV docudrama directed by David Wheatley, written by William Nicholson, and starring Juliet Stevenson. The film aired on BBC One, Britain's main channel, during what they called "One World Week," and was reportedly broadcast in 20 countries simultaneously to draw attention to the dangers of global warming, as it was then called, and the North-South Divide.

The TV plot is simple and straightforward, based upon Ghandi's 1930 "Salt March" to protest British colonial rule in India. It recalls as well as Jean Raspail's dystopian 1973 French novel about an Indian invasion of the French Riviera, The Camp of the Saints. In The March, 250,000 African migrants march from the Sudan to Europe to demand entry to their Promised Land.

At the time of production, the BBC filmmakers denied any connection to their French precursor, as well they might. For while the plot is similar, the attitude is not.

Raspail's novel is thematically xenophobic, racist, and nationalistic, a Custer's Last Stand type of depiction of French Civilization under assault from barbarian masses--presumably influenced by the traumatic episodes of May 1968.

On the other hand, this BBC 1990 docudrama was clearly made to promote increased spending on  international aid, with the ultimate goal of a "world without borders."

In "The March," the mob of 250,000 migrants from Africa, led by "Isa el-Mahdi" (Malick Bowens) are the heroes of the story, for demanding that rich Europeans share their wealth with the people of the Third World.

The message of the Mahdi is calculated to tug at the guilty heartstrings of progressive Europeans: "We are poor because you are rich."

Unlike Raspail, who portrayed Europe engulfed and destroyed by a wave of impoverished humanity, Wheatley and Nicholson made their protagonist an Irish EU commissioner of international development, Clare Fitzgerald (Juliet Stevenson), who helps the marchers to reach the Gibraltar shores (or perhaps beaches in Spain) from Algeria, on live TV, to teach Imperialists a lesson. With deference to another Irish celebrity, Oscar Wilde, it seems Samantha Power was played on TV by Juliet Stevenson in 1990, before there was a Samantha Power.

Clare Fitzgerald concludes the movie by declaring that Europe may not yet ready to admit all the people of the Third World, but someday, perhaps, they will be.

That day appears to have come. Given the reporting on recent events in Europe, The March seems truly prophetic, providing insight into the mentality of the governing European elite...for now in 2015, European Commissioners--depicted critically in the The March as resistant to sharing their wealth with the Third World--appear to have come down categorically against Raspail's Eurocentric attitude in his 1973 Camp of the Saints.

Instead, by admitting hundreds of thousands of marching migrants, they are making their stand on the side of Nicholson, Wheatley and the BBC in 1990.