#HOTDOCS: “WELCOME TO SPAIN”
By George Kozera
WELCOME TO SPAIN opens with an undisputable fact: Seville is the most beautiful city in Spain. Having spent a few days there many years ago, I wholeheartedly agree! When the city’s last brothel turns into a refugee recreational center for those seeking to start a new life in the country, Filmmaker Juan Antonio Moreno Amador meets a number of the people of different nationalities and starts a two year quest as he films their journeys while they try to adapt to a new culture and experiences. It’s an eclectic group.
Omnia is perhaps 8 years old and she, alongside her parents and two younger siblings, escaped from Yemen. Amelia is the oldest of the group. She’s a grandmother of nine, a retired schoolteacher and left Venezuela to start a new life in Spain. Marouane is 18, proudly gay and fled Morocco seeking asylum from sexual persecution back home. One cannot help but to cheer all of them on, praying they succeed.
WELCOME TO SPAIN, with great sensitivity, takes the audience on a trek while these newly displaced people adapt to new cultures, religious beliefs and food, unfamiliar places and ways of thinking. We smile as broadly as Omnia does when she receives a Christmas gift from one of the Three Wise Men or learns something new at the school she attends. When Marouane celebrates attending his first gay pride parade in Madrid, his enthusiasm and love of the freedom that he can finally express his true identity without shame or fear is palpable.
WELCOME TO SPAIN is replete with scenes that are humorous, heartbreaking, life-affirming and fascinating, it is a film with no fillers nor judgment and I enjoyed it tremendously.