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The migratory drama “Europe”: illegality is a fiction – culture

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“And action, please stop the bus.” The camera looks into the light-flooded lobby of a hospital, from the right, a regular bus passes the concourse. The voices can be heard from the beginning. “Is there a difference between the role of Zohra and Rhim?” asks director Philip Scheffner. “There is none,” says actress Rhim Ibrir. “She plays all that, but for her it’s true.”

The cinematographic constellation of “Europe” is already configured with the exhibition. The bodies, the places, the circumstances are real. The characters, the dialogues, the staging are fiction. Of course, this cannot be so clearly separated. Scheffner himself, known for his documentary-essay works, calls it forced fictionthat is to say, a fiction forced by the real situation of its actress.

“Europe” is also about fictitious certificates from a legal point of view. Rhim Ibrir plays Zohra, an Algerian woman in her 30s whose provisional right of residence is revoked overnight. She arrived in France with severe untreated scoliosis. Due to her illness, Zohra was allowed to stay, but now she is supposed to leave the country again after a positive course of therapy. The small town of Châtellerault in western France has become her home. She has found a job, her family lives here, her husband is supposed to come from Algeria.

An oft-quoted phrase from Martin Scorsese is that cinema is about what’s in the picture and what’s not. Philip Scheffner and its author Merle Kröger are aware of the implications of this phrase and know that it begins with the relations of production. The relationships between people in front of and behind the camera are evident in his films, sometimes resulting in ongoing collaboration, as in the case of Revision (2012) and And-ek Ghes… (2016).

Colorado Velcu, the protagonist of both works, became co-writer and co-director of the second film, filming his own family’s migration to Germany. “Europe” is also related to Scheffner’s investigation of “Havarie” (2016), a film experiment on the humanitarian catastrophe in the Mediterranean.

(In Berlin fsk and Wolf cinemas)

What is in the picture and what is not also determines the aesthetic of “Europe”. Volker Sattel’s camera measures the scenes of Zohra’s life in static settings, initially friendly and bright: market square, cafeteria, swimming pool. But as soon as she withdraws her right of residence, the film initially banishes her from the picture. The frame of the image narrows, Zohra remains offscreen, and there are no more answers to her peer’s questions.

It is a guiding idea with a ghostly effect, which completely transfers the exclusion of the protagonist from her social space to the formal plane. And the position of the film can also reside in this decision, in the change of position of the camera from then on: that the supposed illegality of the people is a fiction. But fiction is as much a space of possibility, in which the film will finally let its protagonist reenter the scene: in the end, Zohra leaves the film with the bus from the beginning. Europa is actually the name of the stop where you board. A more symbolic name could hardly have been thought of.

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