The mise-en-scene adopted in With God’s Grace does not aim at an excessively marked or elaborate aesthetic, but – in a long journey from Gambia to Italy, arriving, even if only virtually, in Düsseldorf – substantially focuses on the essential, for a successful example of cinema of reality which, through the story of a single character, tells us, in fact, the story of thousands and thousands of people.
Infibulation is, unfortunately, still a widespread practice in some countries and cultures around the world. But what actually happens to those who decide to rebel against such rituals? In order to tell us the story of those who managed to escape to a better future, documentary filmmakers Gabriele Hochleitner and Timothy McLeish made, in 2016, the documentary With God’s Grace (original title: Wenn Gott will), which was included, following the cancellation of the Diagonale 2020, in the programme Diagonale 2020 – The Unfinished.
In With God’s Grace, then, the two directors focused in particular on the story of young Sadi, originally from Gambia, who, after having escaped the practice of infibulation at the age of seventeen, and after a long pilgrimage full of obstacles and dangers of all kinds, finally arrived in Italy, where she started working as a cook in a canteen and where she could finally have the opportunity to obtain documents to move from there to the rest of Europe. Gabriele Hochleitner and Timothy McLeish’s camera, then, follows the young Sadi’s days step by step, listening to her stories and confidences and filming, at the same time, also her long moments of silence within her small room.
This mise-en-scène does not aim for an excessively marked or elaborate aesthetic, but rather – in a long journey from Gambia to Italy, until arriving, even if only virtually, in Düsseldorf – substantially focuses on the essential, in a successful example of cinema of reality which, through the story of a single character, tells us the story of thousands and thousands of people, as well as a situation that is more topical than ever, and about which few know all the details. And so, alongside the stories of the young protagonist, there are numerous testimonies of those who, unlike her, were not able to save themselves from infibulation or who, like many other older women, were directly involved in its practice.
This short but heartfelt With God’s Grace, then, in no way wants to give answers to the numerous questions raised, nor does it want to formulate precise ideas on the subject , but, on the contrary, it basically aims to make the audience open their eyes, while avoiding any possible rhetoric. And its overall linear development – combined with a strong narrative structure – succeeds perfectly in its intent.
Is there, then, any chance of salvation? With an elliptical structure, With God’s Grace shows us numerous flocks of birds that – first in the skies over Gambia, then in the Italian skies – fly over the most unspoiled nature. This is a sign of hope, as is the image of Sadi herself who, having finally arrived in Germany, was able to marry and give birth to little Tim (named after the director Timothy McLeish). What better omen, then, than the birth of a new life?
Original title: Wenn Gott will
Directed by: Gabriele Hochleitner, Timothy McLeish
Country/year: Austria / 2016
Running time: 92’
Screenplay: Gabriele Hochleitner, Timothy McLeish
Cinematography: Gabriele Hochleitner
Produced by: Gabriele Hochleitner, Timothy McLeish