“My name is Said Mahran, and I am an Italian like you,” said the protagonist of Sta Per Piovere (It's About To Rain), by Iraqi-Italian director Haider Rashid, who described second generation immigrants as being stuck in a socio-political limbo.
The movie tackles issues of cultural and legal straddling that many like fictitious Mahran encounter.
Mahran, the son of an Algerian immigrant is faced with the dilemma of returning to Algeria – a country he has never visited – or remaining as an illegal immigrant, following the bread factory director's suicide; the place where Mahran works and relies on for his residency visa.
“In the attempt to find a solution and bring attention to a problem that is more and more widespread in nowadays’ society, Said embarks on a journey that takes him to lawyers, workers' unions and the press through the meanders of a retrograde legislative bureaucracy, the reconsideration of his identity,” Rashid explains the movie's plotline.
Going back to the concept of limbo, the second generation of immigrants in some countries like Italy is not seen as citizens of the country. Mahran describes them in the film as “second class citizens.”
“The problem is that the whole world is moving – and has already moved, in fact - towards multiculturalism. It is a force that is unstoppable because it is part of the very essence of evolution and human development. Societies need to thus adapt their rules to what is really a natural process that is happening,” Rashid said.
However, he added that immigration has been exploited by certain political groups to impose their agendas rather than resolve tensions.
“I must say that, in Italy, where I live, there is a growing awareness that it is an issue. With due differences, we are going through what countries like the UK, France or the U.S. went through 30 or 40 years ago. There is suddenly a second generation demanding rights and spreading new ideas about integration. It is a great time to be part of, but it is also a difficult social struggle in a country that, regardless of its history of migration, is still fairly closed culturally,” he said.
Born in Florence to an Italian mother from the south and an immigrant Iraqi father, Rashid found it normal to live among people of various backgrounds. While he said his name was the subject of curiosity to his peers, Rashid said he took advantage of his mixed heritage and learned of his surroundings from an objective manner. But things changed for Rashid when he reached his twenties.
“Perhaps, because I started experiencing the Arab world in a closer and deeper manner, I suddenly found myself torn: torn about where I was from, torn about where I should be living or belonged, torn about what I should believe in. It all happened as suddenly the so-called West and East started clashing directly, as some of the so-called West started seeing the Arab world as an enemy. I was torn, and still am, about what's right, about my morals, about what the word 'freedom' means, and how it is distorted according to ideas that belong to different cultures and religious or political beliefs,” Rashid said.
So the director chose the path of filmmaking, and directed his first short film when he was 17 years old. He enrolled and subsequently dropped out of film school because he didn't find that his mind was being challenged. Rashid continued to work in the television field until he directed his first feature length film, 'Tangled Up in Blue', released in the UK in 2010.
“Filmmaking has always been a very deep means of expression for me, albeit a difficult one to purse. Cinema is a way of looking at, experiencing and filtering reality around you. My interest in social issues is personal and seeps through in what I do, it drives me because in a way it justifies what is essentially a very vain and arrogant proposition: believing that you have something to say that can be meaningful to others,” Rashid said.
He said the themes he focuses on involve elements in reality that are important to him. ”They say the best way to make a film is to talk about something you know,” the director said.
So far, Rashid’s major themes have revolved around mixed origins and the clash of cultures.
“Trying to find the crux of a matter whose truth probably lies in the acceptance that belonging to places and homelands is a concept that is changing, and the only way forward is welcoming the unknown that is ahead,” Rashid said.