m2filmsDomani Torno a Casa is a film by Paolo Santolini and Fabrizio Lazzaretti that traces the lives of two boys in Afghanistan and Sudan through the corridors of Emergency.

Like many films in this genre, this one is more likely to raise the profile, if not the ego, of its makers than it ever will of the plight of war-torn countries and trouble spots around the world.

The controversy that preceded its screening was caused by the right-wing Major of Rome decision to use his powers to veto against its showing in a publicly owned theatre. The film was eventually shown in the Nuovo Sacher, the theatre owned by well-known film-maker and actor Nanni Moretti.

Domani Torno a Casa was introduced by Vauro, an iconic figure of the Italian media of the left, who advanced that while the film was in the reportage vein, it didn’t follow the journalistic convention of appearing unbiased or balanced. Vauro was right on the latter, especially when the reviews in the paper he works for failed to name the cause of Emergency’s work in Afghanistan, but far off the mark on the premise that the film was a work in journalism, at least in the editorial sense that it had any information or educational value.

Domani Torno a Casa is a film filled with all the bleeding heart’s clichés and laced with strong doses of Orientalism typically found in the fund raising adverts for aid organisations around the world. In this case Emergency.

Emergency is an Italian NGO that for the past 15 years has been providing much needed medical care to victims of war in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Iraq, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Sudan. Its longevity and growth is a testimony of its good work, but must also prompt a degree of self evaluation to avoid following the path of many such like organisations that in exponential growth they have become hugely bureaucratic and expensive to administer, if not monolithic, hierarchical structures built on the cult figure of their founders.

In Domani Torno a Casa the film-makers follow the path of recovery of two boys, Murtaza (6) from a village in Afghanistan, who lost his hand after playing with ordinance left over from the Soviet invasion of nearly two decades ago, and Yagoub, a Sudanese teenager from the Mayo refuge camp near Khartoum with a serious heart condition.

The film does not provide any context to the situation of the countries it was shot in. It has no verbal narrative or interviews of its protagonists. Superbly filmed, but at times contrived, it has strong imagery, including gruesome, but respectfully treated, images of the injuries that the infamy of war brings.   

The film shows that in Kabul, Emergency provides medical aid and surgery, with a staff of International and local medical practitioners. In the busy centre portrayed in Domani Torno a Casa, the problems of working with different cultures are evident from the start. Typically, the Western modus operandi tries to include local customs, but once these are seen to obstruct what may be considered a superior approach to health care, local traditions are contemptuously tolerated like one tolerates a headache. In addition, local customs such as the wearing of the head-scarf for women are unnecessarily stereotyped by Western workers.

In Sudan, Emergency embarked on the ambitious project of creating the most advanced cardio-surgery hospital in Africa. Yagoub is one of its first patients. In the words of Emergency founder Gino Strada, the centre in Mayo will accommodate all Sudanese irrespective of tribal or ethnic belonging. Ambitious indeed, considering that Sudan, as we know it, is a creation of Western political machination and the internal disputes between Arabs, Mardi, Acholi, Dinka and other ethnic groups are often at the centre of conflict and bloodshed. Nonetheless, one can only wish Emergency the very best in their endeavour to build bridges between the different tribes in the name of health care.

Domani Torno a Casa is scripted as a good news story, complete with tears, smiles and a happy ending provided by Emergency, including a trite shot of Strada approaching Yagoub, after his surgery to offer him a patronising well-wishing greeting. The film may well be a good tool to raise the profile of Emergency, but unlikely to have any impact in raising the awareness of the situation in Afghanistan or Sudan.