Immigration is one of the key topics to literally shake contemporary Europe; the very Europe which is seen by the rest of the world in a way similar to that of British world music band Asian Dub Foundation; like a fortress that must be conquered. However, what is real “fortress Europe” like? What are its weak spots? Is there really enough happiness for everybody behind its walls? Three new documentary premieres will take you on a journey towards a better life…
“It used to be a calm village, however, after the arrival of the immigrants it turned into Africa”, says one of the inhabitants of a little village in the South of Italy; in its vicinity, one of the biggest refugee camps in Europe has been opened several years ago.
In the first part of Niguri, director Antonio Martino contrasts two (literally) black-and-white perspectives of the forced cohabitation of two different cultures, only to challenge the sharp contrast in the latter part of the film. Listening to the resentments of the locals with patience, Martino keeps reminding them of their own (not that distant) past when they, too, had to leave their families and look for a job abroad. By means of a film montage, he creates a powerful “debate” of the locals and the foreigners, coming to the focal point that the very first and highest wall encountered by all people involved is the wall of mutual prejudice and mistrust.
However, besides the courage to go abroad, the “gastarbeiter” also have to have the courage to leave their country; to leave their homes, families and friends. The Town of Badante Women by Stephan Komandarev perceives the problem from the perspective of those who are left at home. Paradoxically, in this case it is the men who are abandoned. While the women from the once prosperous town of Varshets find jobs in Italy, taking care of old and ill people, the men have to stay at home. They bring up the children, take care of the households and struggle with the bitter feelings of emptiness and loneliness in various ways. Subtitled “European story from Bulgary”, the film points out that even within the walls of “fortress Europe”, there is no City of the Sun. Against the backdrop of its plot, the film outlines an interesting parallel. There is no great difference between the instability of totalitarian African states making thousands of people take the risky path to the gates of Europe, and between the instability of the post-totalitarian Eastern bloc. Each of the social turbulences has its victims; each of the thieves steals somebody else’s money. No matter whether he wears a jaguar leather cap or a violet suit; no matter whether his name is Mobutu, Lukashenko or perhaps Kožený.
The third journey to happiness is taken by Macedonian filmmaker Atanas Georgiev who is looking for a bride in Vienna. However, it is neither love nor dowry he is seeking but rather the Austrian residency. How many brides like that are there in the Sacher City over the Danube? How many obstacles does a shy Macedonian have to overcome on his way towards the long-desired Austrian passport? Answers to these questions are provided in the documentary with the laconic title Cash & Marry.
While the Italian filmmakers follow those who have left and the Bulgarian filmmakers follow those who have stayed, the Macedonian director goes even further; leaving the position of the observer, he himself becomes an immigrant, a beggar at the door of the “better world”. That is why his documentary takes the eclectic form of a diary entry; a home video distanced from making general statements, rather staying within the limits of personal experience; the experience of a single conqueror of “fortress Europe”.
Despite their formal diversity, the three films are still in accord, pointing out the fact that the walls we run against as the “children of globalization” are made of our own failures, prejudice, weakness, desires and fears. Finding a way through these walls is the first important step to take on the way towards a really better life; no matter in what direction.
Doc Alliance is a creative partnership of 7 key European documentary film festivals. Our aim is to advance the documentary genre, support its diversity and promote quality creative documentary films.