A Film in Six Acts

Trailer for Who Is Europe? A Film in Six Acts

WHO IS EUROPE? A Film in Six Acts is a longer version of WHO IS EUROPE? A Film in Three Acts. Both were made as part of the Europe-wide EU-funded research project, ‘CoHERE’, (Critical Heritages: performing and representing identities in Europe) led from Newcastle University by Prof Chris Whitehead and Dr Susannah Eckersley.

The CoHERE project

The CoHERE project seeks to identify, understand and valorise European heritages, engaging with their socio-political and cultural significance and their potential for developing communitarian identities. CoHERE addresses an intensifying EU Crisis through a study of relations between identities and representations and performances of history. It explores the ways in which heritages can be used for division and isolation, or to find common ground and ‘encourage modern visions and uses of its past.’ The research covers a carefully selected range of European territories and realities comparatively and in depth; it focuses on heritage practices in official and non-official spheres and engages with various cultural forms, from the living arts to museum displays, food culture, education, protest, commemorations and online/digital practice, among others.

Reflecting, responding and critiquing the research questions and activities of the academic researchers in Co-HERE, Ian’s film takes us to Dresden, Bologna, Bodrum, Tompa on the Hungarian-Serbian border, and to Melilla, a Spanish exclave in Africa, to ask “Who is Europe?”. It ends with the sounds of bells ringing across Europe on International Peace Day.

Act 1 – Dresden

In DRESDEN, the split-screen makes palpable the clash of opposites circulating in heritage practices in present-day Germany. Using an observational style, McDonald captures the attempts by right-wing German nationalists to instrumentalise the annual commemoration of the Firebombing of Dresden in 1945 to seek legitimacy for a stridently nationalist German identity in 2018. However, the nationalist attempts to use the bombing attack by British and American forces in 1945 to carve out a right-wing anti-immigrant German identity today does not go unchallenged by the youth of Dresden—be they anti-fascist activists demonstrating on the streets or schoolgirls dancing in the city square!

Act 2 – Bologna

In BOLOGNA, the split-screen works as a structural and narrative device to prompt questions about the complex nature of the politics of food heritage and identity in the northern Italian city of Bologna. The ambivalent relationship between tradition and modernity in the Italian food industry is brought to the fore as we accompany pasta fresco makers Graziano and Graziela on a journey from their small restaurant in the centre of Bologna to the outskirts of the city and the site of the latest FICO Eataly World store, dubbed by the media as the “Disney world of food”.

Act 3 – Tompa

In TOMPA, McDonald is drawn to a small border-town as a base to visit and film the barrier-border erected by the Hungarian Government to stem the flow of migrants entering from Serbia into Hungary as a gateway to western Europe. Evocative visuals of this desolate place and encounters with the Hungarian border-guards are set alongside provocative testimonies from two of the increasing number of German citizens who are choosing to migrate to Hungary in the wake of the refugee crisis and its perceived impact on German society.

Act 4 – Bodrum

BODRUM was filmed and edited by Turkish filmmaker Cem Hakverdi & CoHERE researcher Gönül Bozoğlu. They travelled to this popular tourist resort on Turkey’s south-west coast, where a controversial plan is underway to construct a 50-metre-high glass reconstruction of the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, ranked as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. In this film, they visit the archaeological site with the ruins of the huge tomb of Mausolous and listen to conflicting opinions from architects, archaeologists and local people about the ambitious and audacious “glass-project”. At stake in this debate about Bodrum’s heritage and its relationship to civic pride and, of course, the business of tourism. Alongside these testy issues, opinions about the plans show up contests about the ownership of the Mausoleum and whether it is an expression of Hellenistic and European, or Anatolian (“Karian”), civilisation.

Act 5 – Melilla

In MELILLA, one of two Spanish cities situated in Africa, hundreds of migrant young men and boys from neighbouring Morocco, known as “Harragas”, risk their lives trying to illegally board ships bound for mainland Spain. In this city known for its rich heritage, McDonald spends time with these young homeless migrants and allows them to use his mobile phone to communicate with home and speak into the camera to communicate with the outside world. In a reflexive attempt to redress the power imbalance inherent in “dialogues” about young Muslim men migrating from Africa to Europe, McDonald insists that they, the ignored and demonized youth, talk, and we, the privileged viewers, listen.

Act 6 – Ringing For Peace

WHO IS EUROPE? concludes with images and sounds of bells ringing out in Cologne, Riga, Warsaw and Northumberland in RINGING FOR PEACE. The UN-backed International Day of Peace is marked throughout Europe by a call for churches, city halls, belfries and memorials to ring their bells “for solidarity and peace” and a celebration of “shared cultural heritage in Europe”. Coming after five films that in different ways explore how heritage practices are often mobilised in support of antagonism and exclusion as much as peace and inclusion, this initiative leaves us with a key provocation of this 58-minute film, Who is Europe?

You can watch the film in its entirety here:

A discussion on the making of the film and the issues it raises with regards to the contribution of documentary as creative practice-led research to knowledge production in heritage research can be found here

Screening History

Who is Europe? – international conference
POLIN (Museum of the History of Polish Jews) Warsaw
22 – 23 Nov, 2018

TRACES – ‘Transmitting Contentious Cultural Heritage with the arts’
Politecno di Milano, Milan

18 January 2019

Filming the Past in the Present: Heritage and Documentary Practice
Culture Lab, Newcastle University
15 May 2019

Screening at University of Oslo, Norway. 17 October 2019.

Contact: Ian McDonald at Ian.McDonald@ncl.ac.uk


An interventions film by Ian McDonald

Academic advisors:
Prof. Chris Whitehead & Dr. Susannah Eckersley

Filmed & Edited by Ian McDonald

Filmed & Edited by Cem Hakverdi & Gönül Bozoğlu

Filmed by:
Pias Mondanese (Cologne)
Lelde Kristiāna Vozņesenska Dāvids Smiltiņš & Juris Jonelis (Riga)
Grzegorz Kołacz & Zuzanna Schnepf-Kołacz (Warsaw)
Ian McDonald (Thockrington & additional footage)

Edited by Ian McDonald

Academic Researcher & Interpreter (DRESDEN)
Dr. Susannah Eckersley

Academic Researcher & Interviewer (BODRUM)
Dr. Gönül Bozoğlu

Production Assistant & Interpretor (BOLOGNA)
Jacob McCarthy

Thanks & Acknowledgements:
Graziano & Graziela, Osteria dell ’Orsa, Bologna
FICO Eataly World, Bologna
Snezana, Nino & Reiner, Tompa

Graham Bell, Ioana Crugel , Nicole Kalitsi, Uwe Koch, Troels Myrup Kristensen, Eliseu Martínez Roig, Rūta Muktupāvela, Graciela Murga, Baiba Tjarve

Muğla İl Kültür ve Turizm Müdürlüğü, Olcay Akdeniz, Timur Altay, Çiğdem Baysel, Esma Baysel, Mehmet Güngör, Hasan İliksiz, Kazım Karatoprak, Özay Kartal, Nafi Koronel, Ayşe Temiz, Aykut Özet, Nermin Özsay Senses

Harraga Asociación, Asociación Pro.De.In. Melilla, Abdelhakim Main, José Palazón, Antonio Ruiz, Cristina Puigdengolas, Natalia Pereira, Tamzin Hummerstone, Laura Paterson, And all the young Harragas on Melilla

Additional academic advisors (CoHERE)
Prof. Ayhan Kaya (Istanbul Bilgi University, Turkey)
Prof. Troels Myrup Kristensen (Aarhus University, Denmark)
Dr. Vinnie Nørskov (Aarhus University, Denmark)
Dr. Areti Galani (University of Newcastle, UK)

Thereza Webster, CoHERE Project Manager
Film@CultureLab, Newcastle University

End Credits Music
“Rivers of our Being” Folk Oratorio
By Prof Valdis Muktupavels
Conducted by Dr Simon McKerrell
Recorded by Film@CultureLab students
Matthew Berry, Claudia Lees, Lizzie Ewin, Melissa Fields
A CoHERE event performed
at Newcastle University
November 1st 2018

Producer for interventions: Geetha J.

Translation & Subtitles: Screen Language 2018

CoHERE received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement 693289