The Protagonists

The idea for the project started in 2010, when Dagwami Yimer met Mohamed Ba – one of many such encounters – whilst travelling around Italy presenting his work and speaking to children in schools.

“The energy of this man, who can speak not only his own mother tongue but also fluent French and Italian, really touched me. He told me about his difficult life as an illegal immigrant in Paris, and his subsequent move to Milan, where he started working as a cultural mediator and tourist guide, and finally about the terrible ordeal of the stabbing. His story pushed me to dig deeper into the issue of racially motivated violence in Italy, which generally gets a two-line mention in the press and is never told from the victim’s point of view.”

In November 2011 the film won the Gianandrea Mutti Production prize: the first and only Italian prize for migrant cinema.

Mohamed Ba was born in Senegal 50 years ago. He has spent 9 years living in France and has been in Italy for 14 years, working as a teacher, cultural mediator, actor and griot. Ba has published several theatrical monologues in Italian. and in 2013 his first novel, Il tempo dalla mia parte, published by San Paolo Editions. On 31 May 2009, Ba was stabbed in the centre of Milan at a tram stop. Nobody among those who witnessed the attack helped him and Ba was left bleeding on the ground almost an hour before being taken to hospital. The police never opened an investigation to try and find the attacker, claiming it was a common case of immigrants fighting amongst themselves.

Mor Sougou and Cheik Mbeng, two immigrants also from Senegal, were working in the stalls of the San Lorenzo market in Florence when on 13 December 2011 they were shot in the back and seriously wounded. The aggressor also killed two street vendors and hit another, Moustapha Dieng, in the throat and spine. Italy was in shock. National media reconstructed the assassin’s full profile and record of his dangerous activities in great detail, but neglected to mention anything about the victims: not only the dead, but those gravely wounded in body and soul, Sam Modou, Diop Mor, Mor Suogou, Mustapha Dieng and CheikMbeng, remained invisible. Their story remained untold. Forty years old Sam Modu will never be able to meet his13 year old daughter born in Senegal after he had left. Modu worked in Italy to provide for his daughter, but lacking the right documents he was not able to return home to get to know her. Diop Mor, 54 years old, did have the right visa, but died in the shooting and is survived by a 6 years old son.
Before meeting Dagwami Yimer, none of the survivors wanted to tell their story to a journalist. Two years after the assault, Mor Sogou and Cheik Mbeng are still in rehabilitation programs and have started work again. Moustapha Dieng lost the use of his legs and since 21 November 2013 has been living in a centre in Florence specialized in helping the seriously disabled. In 2012 the three of them received Italian citizenship, while a petition to give Mohamed Ba citizenship has been so far ignored.

In 2012 the Association for the families and victims of Piazza Dalmazia was founded. Part of the Va’ Pensiero profits will go to help the wounded and to sustain the association.

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