Life In Europe
‘Life in Europe’ is the title of a program initiated in 2019 by the ECF and the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), which presents each year a selection of documentary films that encourages the public debate on Europe.
By supporting and partnering with platforms such as IDFA we invite you and ourselves to envisage Europe in all its facets and in all its complexity.
The history of Europe is made up of many stories told by many people with varying perspectives. These stories are essential for developing sentiments, a sense of belonging, but also for challenging the status quo where it seems insufficient.
The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) is the world’s largest documentary film festival held annually since 1988 in Amsterdam, and an acclaimed platform for independent films. IDFA stimulates and strengthens a European culture of solidarity, activating the public debate on Europe through documentary films, by offering an independent and inspiring online and offline meeting places for audiences and professionals.
Since 2019 the European Cultural Foundation hosts a DocTalk at the festival; a longer interview with directors and protagonists in their documentary.
For the 2023 edition of IDFA we have invited Mohamed Bah, host of City Rights Radio, a partner in our Re:framing Migrants in the European Media project, to host the conversation following the screening of Chasing the Dazzling Light. For the screening of Gerlach we collaborate with De Balie.
During the 2022 festival we co-hosted three Doc Talks and invited friends from our networks to further explore the topics touched on in the documentaries: Antonina Stebur of The European Pavilion partner Antiwarcoalition for the screening of The Hamlet Syndrome, Melanie Schiller for Bella Ciao, while Culture of Solidarity Fund grantee Anila Noor, New Women Connectors, commented on Fatima.
In 2021 Judges Under Pressure by director Kacper Lisowski deeply impressed the audience. In 2020 Milo Rau’s The New Gospel did the same. In 2019’s DocTalk we discussed and applauded Alexander Nanau’s Colectiv, which went on to win the 2021 LUX Audience Award.
Pathway 'Life in Europe' 2023
You can have a quick glance at all the ‘Life in Europe’ pathway documentaries via this link. As you have read above, together with IDFA we picked two documentaries for a Doc Talk:
Chasing the dazzling light
Director Yaser Kassab followed in his father’s footsteps by emigrating as a young man from Syria to Europe, and like his father he also had the ambition to become a filmmaker. Now they are working together on this film remotely. From Syria, the father gives his son direction on the phone or in video calls, along with advice about future film projects or how to organize his life—loving conversations interspersed with well-intentioned parental advice. More information.
Gerlach van Beinum is one of the last old-school crop farmers in the Netherlands. Surrounded by the advancing exponents of modernity—distribution centers, highways, multinationals—he moves through the seasons at his own pace. We follow him for several years in his fields on the outskirts of Amsterdam. Read on.
Pathway 'Life in Europe' 2022
1974, une partie de campagne
In 1974, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing commissioned Raymond Depardon to make a film about the presidential race that year, with François Mitterrand as his chief opponent. Inspired by Richard Leacock’s Primary (1960), which covered JFK’s run for the White House, Depardon follows the events in Direct Cinema style, sticking close to his subject during public and private meetings. He is everywhere: aboard the helicopter, in the campaign office and with Giscard d’Estaing as he waits for the election results “all alone.”
From the hymn of the partisans to the fight song of the new generations around the world, hit of the most famous international artists and soundtrack of the Netflix series La Casa de Papel. Almost a century after its birth, the power of Bella Ciao does not stop. The film recounts the mysteries, genesis and history of the Resistance song, which reappears wherever somebody fights against injustice. An unstoppable song, today a patrimony of humanity in the struggle for freedom.
Ander believes that, like many others, what his father suffered in prison was torture. While he resolves his suspicions, he immerses himself in the world of forensic doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists and lawyers who have elaborated the “Research project on torture and ill-treatment in the Basque Country between 1960-2014”. Along them, he delves into concepts such as psychological torture or the Istanbul Protocol, giving us an insight into the reality of torture in the global north.
An atmospheric short, following Józsi, a worker of Budapest’s largest functioning old industrial grain Silo. Located by the Danube river port, this place is the most significant grain distribution junction in the region. Józsi has worked at the silo for over 30 years, and he has lived in a container home on site. His work is like a diver’s, he submerges into the 10-story deep silo containers day by day to clean and maintain them. His work is not only dangerous but his exposure to crop dust over the years has been threatening his health increasingly. Though the place is gradually killing him, he is unable to escape it. To cope with it all, Józsi inhabits his stark reality with his untamable fantasy.
In a small town, a documentary shoot takes a turn at the same time as the life of its protagonist, whose residency permit is revoked by the French State. Zohra Hamadi must consequently disappear, become invisible and inaudible. Choosing to use fiction to convey violence and absurdity, Philip Scheffner delivers a powerful political film.
Where I am now?
18-year old F. is caught between her desire for self-discovery and family loyalty, between excitement for the future and nostalgia for her homeland. She has been living as a refugee in Bucharest for 4 years, after fleeing with her family from Afghanistan. In this personal and apparent candid diary shot on handycam, she shares the little joys of everyday life, her thoughts and feelings about life, death, peace and war. It is a self-portrait as well as a portrait of Bucharest.
A portrait of the politician and her role in Europe, with interviews.
Notes on Displacement
In 2015 I arrived on Lesbos. Nadira, 76, greets me with two kisses on the cheek. Her family has escaped Syria and just survived crossing of the Aegean Sea. Nadira marches into chaos as my camera keeps recording. I get more and more involved every day following the family through the Balkans. Instead of finding answers, more questions keep hunting me. Why the ongoing displacement and who benefits from it.
Ruthless Times – Songs of Care
Songs of Care is a documentary film with choral tableaus juxtaposed with documentary episodes, capturing with its dark humor and poignant moments, the experiences of those working in the field: a care worker is blacklisted for revealing malpractices in her unit, the retirees of a remote municipality witness the privatization of their care services, robots roam the halls of care homes and nurses are relegated to remote-care call centers. The care-workers’ anonymous testimonies are composed into choral songs; elderly citizens sing impudent songs playing with the economic jargon of our time. What cannot be talked about, has to be sung!
The Lost Souls of Syria
Stolen from the Syrian regime’s secret archives, 27 000 photos showing bodies of civilians detainees tortured to death are made public by a military defector codenamed Caesar. Who are the dead, what was their fate, why have they disappeared in Bachar Al Assad’s prisons? All across Europe, victims’ families, helped by international lawyers, activists and Caesar himself, seek for truth and justice, investigating the Syrian death machine and its highest officials. But torn between western governments’ political agenda and the ongoing terror spread by Damascus dictatorship, how far will they go?
The Night My Brother Dissappeared
An overcrowded boat carrying Eritrean refugees sinks near the Italian coast. The human rights activist Adal Neguse learns that his brother was one of the victims. Adal decides to meet the survivors in order to find out what really happened. The encounters give birth to a collective testimony, marked by sorrow, guilt and hope.
Pathway 'Life in Europe' 2021
The Balcony Movie
Director Pawel Lozinski is a visual anthropologist studying the subjects on his doorstep. From his balcony, he directs his camera at the sidewalk in front of his apartment building. On this gray strip of pavement, sandwiched between dull green grass and a tall wire fence, a colourful procession of locals, relatives, passersby and homeless people walk by. Read on.
Darkness There and Nothing More
Filmmaker Tea Tupajic was seven years old when the civil war in the former Yugoslavia reached her hometown Sarajevo. The scars the war left play a major role in her work as an artist. She asked Dutch war veterans Frank and Harm to spend a night in conversation with her. Continue reading.
The Empty Center
IDFA 2021’s guest of honor Hito Steyerl examined the large parcel of land between former East and West Berlin with an archeological eye for her 1998 graduation project Die leere Mitte. After the fall of the Wall in 1989, Potsdamer Platz had to again become the center of the city, as it had been in the past. Read on.
No one else knows all the details of his escape, not even his partner. The film’s director Jonas Poher Rasmussen nonetheless manages to get his school friend Amin to open up about his journey from 1980s Afghanistan to Denmark of today—with the promise that he will remain completely anonymous. Read on.
Are you more afraid of the past or the future? How important is education to you? And how do you view adults? In Futura, a topical yet timeless documentary about ambitions, fears, and unfulfilled desires, Italians teenagers open their hearts in a range of interviews. Continue reading.
The Home Front – A Journey in Italy with Domenico Quirico
Human technology has made great leaps forward in recent decades, but what about humanity itself? Post-industrialization is causing distressing social changes, and Home Front: A Journey in Italy with Domenico Quirico shows what that means in practice. Filmmaker Paola Piacenza accompanies journalist Domenico Quirico to various Italian cities in his search for the root causes of modern poverty. Continue reading.
In Flow of Words
How would it affect you to have to translate gruesome court testimony? Three interpreters at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague discuss the gulf between professionalism and the intense emotion generated by their work. Read on.
Judges Under Pressure
In Poland, judicial independence has been under serious pressure since the right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS) came to power. Judges whose rulings are not to the government’s liking are at risk of being fired or arrested. The new government portrays judges as elitist and incompetent at best, and at worst as dissidents. Continue reading.
Letter from Eusapia
Filmmaker Andres Cornejo Pinto sends cameras through the sewers of Brussels. He mainly records sewage and rats, but he mixes this report of his everyday work with a story about the underground city of Eusapia, illustrated by archive footage. Continue reading.
Mr. Bachmann and His Class
Maria Speth’s small crew spent months being a fly on the wall in 6B, the class of Dieter Bachmann, a teacher at the Gerhard Büchnerschool in Stadtalendorf, Germany. From hundreds of hours of filming, Speth edited a monumental portrait of a natural educator at work. Read on.
Name of the Game
The politician Trond Giske was for many years the “crown prince” of the Norwegian Labor Party. But when this left-wing party loses popularity and the #MeToo movement raises awareness about sexual harassment, the tide turns for the once-so-popular Giske. Read on.
A People’s Radio – Ballads from a Wooded Country
What fires the soul of a Finn? An array of scenes of summery Finnish landscapes, in the city as well as the countryside, accompanies messages from listeners to the popular radio program Kansanradio, meaning “People’s radio.” Read on.
The Treasures of Crimea
It was a fateful coincidence that in 2014, just when the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam was staging an exhibition of Crimean artworks, Russia annexed the region. So now the question arises of who should the artworks be returned to? To the museums in Crimea who had been so kind as to loan them out? Or to Ukraine, perhaps, the country Crimea belonged to before the annexation? Continue reading.
The Voice of the People
“We will reclaim our country and our people,” a leading figure in the right-wing populist party Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) tells his party colleagues on Bundestag election night in 2017. They are celebrating as the AfD, founded four years earlier, surges into the German parliament with 94 seats, instantly making it the third largest party. The Voice of the People follows four MPs—all men—for three years as they seek to extend their power. Read on.
The regional RER B train route transects Paris and its suburbs from north to south. Alice Diop gets off at various stations and meets a Malian car mechanic in Le Bourget, a district nurse (Diop’s sister) in Drancy, the writer Pierre Bergounioux in Gif-sur-Yvette, and a band of deer hunters in the Chevreuse valley. Continue reading.
When We Were Them
When We Were Them is an indictment of European refugee policy, but directed specifically at the people of Bosnia. How can it be that people who in the recent past were themselves subjected to deadly hatred should now treat refugees as criminals? “Do we remember when we were them?” Read on.
Pathway 'Life in Europe' 2020
The Blue House
Alpha is a migrant artist who’s been living for a long while in Calais Jungle, the notorious refugee and migrant encampment near Calais, France. He’s turned his self-built cabin into an artwork. He has attracted the attention of journalists and is now something of a local celebrity. But when he calls home, they no longer recognise his voice. Read on.
In a rural region of Hungary close to the Serbian border, an invisible danger looms—as any villager can tell you. Figures sneak across the fields, unknown cars are spotted, dogs in yards behave strangely, and children are scared when it gets dark. Continue reading.
Fire at Sea
Lampedusa. We are shown two utterly separate worlds. The activities of several local people are combined to form a mosaic of everyday life on this tiny Italian island. It’s difficult to imagine a starker contrast than between these everyday scenes and the dire needs of the African boat refugees. Read on.
The Foundation Pit
Countless Russian citizens are making their voices heard by using what they see as their last resort: social media. Some post from the cameras in their cars; others report from their kitchens, or the streets. All over the country, people tell of their frustration, unhappiness, and rage. Andrey Gryazev found his compatriots’ heartfelt pleas and tirades online and spliced them into an effective protest that is sometimes comical and absurd, but more often downright shocking. Read on.
Mikhail Gorbachev, the 89-year-old former leader of the Soviet Union, receives Russian filmmaker Vitaly Mansky at his house just outside Moscow. In a light and pleasant atmosphere, weighty topics come up for discussion, as Gorbachev looks back over his life. Continue reading.
Jano & Shiro, a Brothers' Journey
The brothers Jano and Shiro are inseparable. When war breaks out in Syria, they flee together in search of a better life for themselves and their family. The boys are 18 and 15 when they set off on foot, heading for the Netherlands. Continue reading.
Lost Kids on the Beach
Filmmaker Alina Manolache was born 1990, the year after the fall and execution of Romanian dictator Ceausescu. It marked the beginning of a new, post-communist era. At the start of the film, she calls out to people who had ever been lost on the beach in the nineties to get in touch with her. This seemingly random appeal leads to her traveling around the country and having conversations with a large number of peers about their memories of the experience, and about their life now. Read on.
Made for Walking
It’s nighttime in the French Alps and an army of vehicles are preparing the snow for another day of winter fun. Meanwhile, volunteers scan the mountain peaks with their binoculars. They’re on the lookout for young West-Africans trying to cross from Italy to France on foot—wearing snow boots given to them by Italian volunteers. Continue reading.
The New Gospel
In the past, both Pier Paolo Pasolini and Mel Gibson filmed the crucifixion of Jesus in the southern Italian city of Matera. In 2019, Matera became the backdrop for a new passion play. This time, Jesus was played by the Cameroonian political activist Yvan Sagnet, who defends the rights of the illegal workers exploited by a mafia-led agricultural system. Many of these workers are refugees from Africa who have nowhere else to go. The New Gospel is both a live recording of the play, and a glimpse behind the scenes. Continue reading.
The New Gospel entailed an interdisciplinary project [campaigns, public events, performances, and a film] to talk about global human injustices, but rolled out in Matera, one of the two 2019 European Capitals of Culture. This project received one of our Democracy Needs Imagination grants. Read on.
Notes from the Underworld
This unique document of an era centers on the Viennese singer Kurt Girk (1932-2019) and his buddy Alois Schmutzer, the “king of the underworld.” Girk’s connections with illegal gambling led to this much-loved interpreter of popular folk songs becoming known as the Frank Sinatra of Austria. Continue reading.
A clearly narrated and precise view into the innermost workings of the capitalist system. Director Carmen Losmann sets out to understand why over the past decades, in parallel with economic growth, debt has increased, and the gap between rich and poor has grown. Continue reading.
Silence of the Tides
With its glorious sunsets, diverse wildlife, and landscapes that change twice a day, the Wadden Sea has proven itself to be a photogenic place. Yet the largest tidal wetland in the world has never been depicted as breathtakingly as it is here. Read on.
A Way Home
When filmmaker Karima Saïdi’s mother Aïcha develops Alzheimer’s at the end of her life, Karima decides to make a film portrait of her at her Brussels care home. Before oblivion descends for good. Continue reading.
Khavaj, a young mixed martial arts fighter from Chechnya, has gone into hiding in Belgium. He’s lived in fear for his life ever since his brother found out that Khavaj is gay. Everything he’s been through has left him in such a state of shock that he’s lost his voice. Continue reading.
Pathway 'Life in Europe' 2019
Movements of a Nearby Mountain
If you’ve ever owned an old car, you may well recognize the phenomenon: a flyer under the windshield wiper with a phone number, asking whether you’d like to sell your old banger, whatever its make, model or year. Damage no problem. Continue reading.
Where We Belong
How do children experience their parents’ break-ups? We hear from five children from three families: the twin sisters Alyssia and Ilaria, brother and sister Carleton and Sherazade, and the slightly older Thomas. They talk about the run-up to their parents separation, and the aftermath: how their mother left, for example, or how they had to choose between their father and mother, and adapt to the new reality. Continue reading.
Director Alexander Nanau follows a number of key figures in the aftermath of the disaster, from the point where we learn that 37 of the injured died of bacterial infections in local hospitals. We hear from newspaper journalists who discover that the hospitals use diluted disinfectants, the minister of health in the temporary technocratic government, and the victims of a corrupt health care system in a dysfunctional state. Continue reading.
Or read our dedicated piece.
On April 18, 2015, a ship carrying at least 800 refugees sank off the Libyan coast. A year later, the salvaged wreck is brought to a Sicilian military base, where a forensic pathologist and her team are waiting to discover the identity of the victims. At this point, all that remains of victim #387 are remnants of clothing and decaying photographs and letters. Sim cards, soaked banknotes and a tube of toothpaste: these simple belongings have now become macabre still life’s. Continue reading.
All Against All
After the Second World War, around 200,000 Dutch citizens were arrested for collaborating with the enemy. Most were soon released into a society in which they could fully participate, and even have great careers. Anton Mussert, the leader of the Dutch Nazi Party or NSB, was sentenced to death. Continue reading.
The Death of Antonio Sànchez Lomas
On All Saints’ Day, the inhabitants of the southern Spanish village of Frigiliana remember their dead. The assembled villagers all know each other, and they bring flowers and candles. But the apparent serenity belies the deep divisions in the village. The murder of Antonio Lomas by the Guardia Civil in 1952, during the dictatorship of General Franco, has caused a collective trauma. Continue reading.
In a Whisper
Childhood friends Patricia and Heidi grew up in Cuba, where they both went to the film academy. As children of the 1970s, they were brought up with the communist ideals of Che Guevara, but the promised bright future failed to materialise. Continue reading.
Europa, “Based on a True Story”
The Rwandan director Kivu Ruhorahoza decides to film his new movie, A Tree Has Fallen, in London. It is to be a stylish drama about Simon, a mysterious Nigerian man, who returns to London to make amends with Anna, his mixed-race lover and Bruce, Anna’s white ex-husband. Continue reading.
“Warrior Monks” and “Guardian Mothers” they call themselves, the martial arts champions who are members of an Italian sect living together in a monastery. Led by a Kung Fu master, they are like Shaolin monks but with a Catholic twist. Utterly devoted to their faith, they train constantly so they are able to combat evil in the name of the Father. Continue reading.
To what extent are workers’ rights subordinate to the machinations of the capitalist system? Solidarity follows the activities of the Blacklist Support Group, which stands up for the victims of a blacklist system in the British construction industry. Continue reading.
Imagine that your parents and brother are white, but your skin color is dark, and you’re being told that this is pure coincidence. This is what happened to a girl in East Berlin in the 1960s. Years before, a group of African men had come to the town as students, and the German woman Sigrid fell in love with Lucien from Togo. Sigrid had a child by him, but she was already married to Armin. Continue reading.
Who Are We?
According to our concept of human rights, all humans are created equal. But what that means doesn’t go without saying, as the mother of the disabled Helena discovers. Helena is 19 years old, and although officially an adult, she’s unable to live independently. She recently moved into a special home where she receives intensive support. Continue reading.