James’ Journey to Jerusalem

At an International Cinema lecture, Robert Colson, an assistant professor of interdisciplinary humanities, spoke about Israeli film James’s Journey to Jerusalem and issues surrounding African migration.


James'_Journey_to_JerusalemPROVO, Utah (November 11, 2014)—In 2013, some 4,800 Africans crossed into a small part of Spain from Morocco. This year those numbers are exploding – Melilla, Spain, has already seen more than 5,000 Africans cross into its border to escape from the situations in their own countries. Of the large numbers of African migrators, Robert Colson said, “It’s a pretty serious issue.”

Colson, an assistant professor of interdisciplinary humanities, has an interest in nationalism and immigration. At an International Cinema lecture, he showed a news video of some of the violence seen at the wall separating Morocco and Melilla. Such violence is increasing.

Colson said that films such as the 2011 Italian film Terraferma deals with the issues of African migration in a serious way. “James’ Journey to Jerusalem takes another approach to the issue,” said Colson.

James’ Journey to Jerusalem is a 2003 Israeli film directed by Ra’anan Alexandrowicz. Alexandrowics has directed four feature films – James’ Journey to Jerusalem is the only film that isn’t a documentary, said Colson.

The film, said Colson, “takes what seems like a light-hearted approach to a serious topic.” The film is about James, an African young man who is sent by his village on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land so he can return to his village to become a pastor. Unfortunately, when James arrives in Israel, he is suspected to be an illegal foreign worker and is arrested. A man pays for his bail and James is forced to work for the man because he paid for his freedom.

Colson explained that the film starts with a musical journey through images of older types of pilgrimages. The introduction settles on a picture of Jerusalem that James is looking at from a waiting room surrounded by Israel customs agents. “James goes through much of the film with a naïve hope and a belief that what he’s going to find will meet his expectations despite the reality he faces,” said Colson.

He continued, “On one hand, we see this pilgrim’s view – a hope to find something. On the other hand, the film shows us the reality of things.” It takes James awhile to see the reality of his situation: detention, racism, manipulation, and language and cultural barriers. “The film shows, through a migrant youth, the contrast between the disparity of what one hopes to happen and the reality of experience,” said Colson.

For more information on International Cinema films and lectures, visit their website.

—Stephanie Bahr Bentley (B.A. English ’14)