Supported by

The Atlantic Selects

A Hypnotic Descent Into Dehumanization

Dec 13, 2017 | 831 videos
Video by Fabio Palmieri

Dehumanization can take many forms, but its end result is always the same: The extinguishment of all that dignifies an individual. Irregulars, a powerful short film by Fabio Palmieri, is the story of one teenager’s dehumanization. His experience unfolds against the hypnotic backdrop of a mannequin factory.

“We had lost our history and our identity,” says the teenager, a recent refugee from West Africa, in the documentary. “I was Cyrille Kabore no more. I didn’t want to wander from country to country. I hoped I would be an engineer one day.”

Palmieri met Kabore in a park in Milan. When the young man told the filmmaker of his harrowing experiences—including a treacherous journey across the Mediterranean, a near-fatal bus ride, and two days spent locked in a coffin—Palmieri recorded their conversation and resolved to make a film. But Kabore’s reluctance to appear on camera posed a unique challenge.

“What could I show instead of a black screen?” Palmieri told The Atlantic. “When I found the mannequin factory, a metaphor of dehumanization, it became easily the perfect aesthetic for Cyrille's story and, more generally, the refugee migration tragedy.”

“I believe that documentaries are a form of art,” continued Palmieri. “Documentaries have a higher purpose than simply to inform you about something. If you need to be informed, you already have TV, newspapers, and the internet. So I firmly believe in the power of art and that it must go beyond reality.”

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to

Author: Emily Buder

About This Series

A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.