The invisible journeys of today

New York: Ahmad is a Pakistani immigrant. Every day, three hours before dawn, he pushes his coffee, tea and donut cart, a small business on wheels, into busy Manhattan, to set up shop on his corner. He makes this journey on foot every morning, year in, year out, going to the same spot, serving the passers-by, the workers, the New Yorkers before returning to his home base: a building inhabited by other Pakistanis and other migrants. Back home, he was a rock star. Athens: A man is released from Korydallos Prison and finds himself wandering the margins of this «Third World» city, mixing in with the alienated and homeless. He walks, he observes, he speaks only a little. In fact, he is mostly silent. He follows the same route every day, to some point in the degraded center of Athens, making but small variations. Whether he is a Greek or a foreigner is of little significance. The lenses of two filmmakers, an American of Iranian descent and a Greek, follow parallel journeys. Two films, one vision. «Man Push Cart» by 30-year-old Ramin Bahrani (showing since last Thursday at the Alphaville cinema) and «Correction» (a new, award-winning production) by 40-year-old Thanos Anastopoulos intersect without connecting; neither aesthetically nor in subject matter. Their wandering heroes unite them: the wanderer/migrant whose home is the road. Both films focus on the next, tentative step. Their intention is not to address the life of the foreigner – in realistic terms – the harsh reality they endure, the racism and aggression. It is as though both filmmakers have moved on to the next chapter: assimilation. They look at the integration of their heroes into the insular system to which every loner, every exile from the world of privilege and material wealth, ascribes. Their paltry salaries do not allow them to participate in the feast, in the (posed or not) smiles of joy, to click with the lustrous environment of plenty. Ahmad just walks. Night or day. Hot or cold. The cars race past Ahmad and his cart in the late Manhattan hours. «It is a modern-day take on the myth of Sisyphus,» says Bahrami. A repetitive movement that stokes the irrational. Endlessly. The end is always a new beginning. The young man in «Correction» records every small, insignificant gesture. He composes a vocabulary of signs, gestures, tiny reactions. «My hero sees everything that we do not want to see. He is the Greek that we all are, but which we abhor,» says Anastopoulos. Both protagonists are nearly invisible in their crossing of the city. They walk alone, with their burning disappointments. Natives or foreigners, there is only one thing of which they are certain: They must keep on walking.