EUROPE ON THE MOVE - Migration in Movies

EFA Conference 2007

It is always easy to make an exoticism
of the conflict, of ‘the other’ – not our
own conflict but the ‘other’. It’s very
exotic and it gives us the illusion that
we know exactly what is going on.


The EFA Conference 2007 dealt with the influence of migrants and migration on European (film) culture. After a welcome by French producer and EFA Board Member Cedomir Kolar, the event kicked off with a conversation between Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai and British film journalist and author Peter Cowie.

PETER COWIE: Is there now a borderless cinema in Europe and the Middle East and if there is, what difficulties does that pose not just for emigrants and exiles but also for filmmakers who want to view the situation objectively and sensitively?

AMOS GITAI: I think that in a way this is related to a larger context. The last century has dissected all the indigenous cultures, there are no happy tribes any more, I would say. There are no remote spaces on the planet which are enclaves to another existence. Everything is related to each other. This is the material for us filmmakers to work with. This is the reality. This is the fictional material, this is what writers also do, not just filmmakers or visual artists…I think that when we see films that confront our existing image of a region, they in a way enlarge our perception. Otherwise we are really captives of the evening news, and the evening news become more and more fictional.

…maybe cinema doesn’t change the world
but we started a discussion, which is already

The first panel discussion GLOBAL VIEW – The Power Of The Image included filmmakers Géla Babluani (Georgia/ France) and Jocelyne Saab (France/Lebanon) as well as fashion designer Katja Fuhrmann (Germany) and sociologist Paul Scheffer (the Netherlands). Chaired by journalist Thierry Chervel (Germany/ France), they discussed the influence of images on popular culture.

THIERRY CHERVEL: Which was the image that you remember as the most powerful global image of the last years?

PAUL SCHEFFER: The image of a dead man lying in the streets of Amsterdam not far from where I’m living, with two knives in his chest and attached to that a letter addressed to him and several others. That was definitely an image which still haunts me… That is to say, somebody daring to cross the taboo of the mage, for example of a woman’s body covered with text from the Koran, is killed for that… I always started by reflecting upon my waning tolerance. What about the problem of the tolerance of others with my tolerance, as it was provoked by exactly this image of a dead film director in our streets, and not being simple about it but witnessing also a sense of loss of those who were already there, who see something that was dear to them vanishing, or at least becoming problematic? So, for me, thinking about migration, the role of images, meant thinking about the experience of loss on both sides and trying to understand what results from that experience of loss and how images can play a role in understanding human frailty on both sides of this experience and to overcome at least the sense of alienation which now translates itself into competing loyalties.

THIERRY CHERVEL: Géla Babluani, you made a film which is very much influenced by childhood memories and also perhaps by the experience of migrating. Are there any private images you have that you would like to turn into global images?

GELA BABLUANI : After 13 TZAMETI I wrote two other screenplays and I was trying to compare them, to see what kind of similarities they have. And I found one thing that was in all three screenplays: a briefcase with money and people going crazy to get it. So I tried to figure out what this image was really about – it’s not about money, I don’t really care about money. And it was from my childhood. I was maybe five years old and I was at the market with my mom. We had been walking a lot because we didn’t really have any money to take a bus or a taxi. My mom was dreaming a lot and she was telling me, ‘listen, if right now, we were to find a briefcase full of money, I’m going to lose my consciousness, I’m going to faint. So please, if you are going to take care of me, please don’t forget this briefcase because we’re going to need it.’ And this image stayed with me when I was growing up and later when I found out what people are willing to do to get this money, how human beings really don’t care about each other. This image was really the most clear and naïve desire for a better life.

In a second panel, LOCAL VIEW – From Urban Guerilla to Street Working, filmmaker Neco Çelik, school principal Aleksander Dzembritzki, and actor Oktay Özdemir (all of them German), took a detailed look at the situation of filmmakers with a Turkish background and their films in Germany. The discussion was chaired by journalist Rainer Traube.

NECO ÇELIK: Our parents came to Germany over 50 years ago and it’s only been recently that there’s been integration summit meetings, and who knows what other discussions, meetings and whatever else. And that’s the way it’s going to keep going in this country, in my opinion. So people keep getting the feeling that they still haven’t really been accepted. And that’s the way it will continue, one big vicious circle, in which these kids are stuck. They’ll never feel they’re really able to say, ‘we belong here, we are part of this society’, because the majority of Germans are made to feel that this minority doesn’t belong to that society. And that’s going to keep swinging back and forth…

OKTAY ÖZDEMIR: … as foreigner filmmakers in Germany we’re really given a hard time. No one will fund us, no one says, ‘hey, you’re part of Germany, too.’ They never say that to us. I’d really like to be able to say, ‘I’m part of this country, too.’ But if Germany refuses to fund me, won’t help me tell my stories, with my art, then I can only do what’s in my head.

ALEKSANDER DZEMBRITZKI: I think that it is a problem that all the people with migration backgrounds are always playing the bad guys! You know, I think that is a big problem in our country and that’s my problem in school. I need Turkish people, Arabic people who made their way and who say, ‘I made my way. And I made my way because I said okay, school is very important to form my intellect. And then when I have finished with school and probably, hopefully get good grades, then I can make my way.’ And I miss such people in my school. I go to all the communities and I ask: ‘Do you have people who can come to my school and talk to my kids and tell them hey, you can make your way if you want to.’ Ok, you say you need money for that and I think you need ideas, you need some goals and then try to reach those. Don’t aim too high, but try to get somewhere.

…through migration and through the fact that
we live in a globalised world, we now have
a sensibility of artists that you cannot reduce
to one culture.


The final panel, MIGRATION IN MOVIES – An Impulse For A New Cultural Dimension, was chaired by sociologist/ anthropologist Dr. Urmila Goel (Germany) and focused on the cultural challenges and benefits in situations where cultures meet and merge. Partipating were filmmakers Marjane Satrapi (Iran/France) and Danis Tanović (Belgium/ Bosnia-Herzegovina), as well as Daniel Cohn-Bendit, member of the European Parliament (Germany/ France)

DANIS TANOVIĆ : It also helps you to realise the things that unite people all around the world. What finally unites us all is humour, I think. It’s those simple emotions we discover, like when you go to Iran. From reading the newspapers you could get the impression that they are all Jihadists with a knife between their teeth and 15 women. Then, when you travel, you realise it is more or less the same country, with different cultural codes, but people like the same things. The kids go to school, they want to make money and to travel, and you realise that basically we are all the same. What’s really important in all of this is that we become some kind of a bridge connecting cultures. So that the next time somebody talks about a subject you can refer to it in a different way.

MARJANE SATRAPI : …when I started to make my books, they wanted this Muslim woman. They wanted the Scheherazade and the 1001 Nights. So, I was oscillating between Scheherazade and 1001 Nights, and, you know, the poor Muslim woman, all of that. They wanted me to play this role. Of course, as soon as there was a problem with women from North Africa in some Parisian suburb, they would call me. Problems with the veil, they would call me. I mean, somebody who had a cat and who was Muslim, it would be my problem. Anything, you know. The thing is, you have to resist that. It is very easy to be the bad guy if you don’t resist. And it’s not easy to resist either.

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A print documentation of the EFA Conference 2007 is available from the EFA Secretariat.

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