Stories of African immigrants are getting a rare spurt of TV attention.
You can find them Monday (Aug. 3) in a witty comedy – “Bob (Hearts) Abishola,” 8:30 p.m. on CBS — and a serious documentary, “POV,” 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings). You can even see this beneath the reality-show glitz of “Real Housewives of Potomac,” at 9 p.m. Sundays on Bravo.
And yes, that’s a huge range – from comedy and glitter to the PBS film. which describes the six-year ordeal of a woman simply identified as Sabine (shown here), who went from country to country.
“You walk in water, you walk in the desert,” she says (via English sub-titles). “You walk until you can’t take it any more and you fall to the ground.”
At first, she seems to be describing someone else. But this is her story, which she tells at a distance.
Desperate to leave Cameroon, Sabine took a job in Lebanon. Her employer took away her passport at the airport, she says, putting her into virtual slavery, When she fled, two years later, it was often on foot, through Syria, Turkey and Greece, and on to Belgium.
In Brussels, she found the district called Matonge. “In every country,” she says, “there’s a spot where Africans gather.”
That’s where she has her tiny shop, Chez Jolie Coiffure (which is also the name of the film). Mostly, she does extensions and eyelashes and serves as an information hub; if immigration police arrive, word spreads quickly.
“Chez Jolie Coiffure” is a tough film to watch, partly because of the ragged sound and pictures, shot in a tight space by a one-woman crew. Still, it gives us the down side of the African immigration struggle.
And the up side? Fictionally, there’s “Bob (Hearts) Abishola,” which has beenboth a delight and a tribute to hard-working, no-nonsense immigrants. And in reality, there’s Wendy Osefo (see separate story), the new “housewife” on “Potomac.”
Of course, you can’t reeally call someone a “housewife” if she is also an associate professor, a writer and a TV commentator. That seems to fit the same work ethic we see in other immigrants, fictional (Abishola) and not (Sabine).