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SHORTS UK / Europe

A new series of short films see Europeans reflect on the EU

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- In the wake of Brexit and worldwide political division, a new series of shorts commissioned by The Guardian and the Headlong theatre group explore European attitudes to the EU

A new series of short films see Europeans reflect on the EU
Borders by Amy Hodge

As the effects of Brexit ripple throughout the UK and the rest of Europe, UK paper The Guardian has teamed up with theatre company Headlong to commission a series of shorts made in Germany, France, UK, Ireland, Poland, Sweden and Spain, which all explore the relationships of member countries to the European Union.

The films include Borders (Amy Hodge), in which a Polish long-distance lorry driver reflects on a life of distrust, borders and endless queuing before the creation of Schengen; and the Sweden-set Top of the Class (Amy Hodge) in which a father describes how, by trying to always be the best, Swedish politics has been devoured by the internet and division has taken hold.

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Producer Jess Gormley, who commissioned the series for The Guardian, told Cineuropa: “Four years ago, Guardian Video teamed up with theatre company Headlong to create a nine-part drama series called ‘Brexit Shorts’; stories from across the UK giving a range of views on Brexit. When we toured the series to European film festivals, the common feedback was that out of nine films, Europe was rarely mentioned and that the series showed up Brexit as more of a domestic debate. With this in mind, we wanted to directly focus on Europe by giving voice to the rich diversity of language and culture across the continent. We commissioned high profiled scriptwriters from Germany, France, Spain, Poland, Ireland, UK and Sweden to write fictional scripts that explored their country's relationship to the EU.”

The programme of seven films had their international premiere at the most recent edition of the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival, with packed cinemas and lively debates amongst the audience.

“We were interested to see what films people felt a real connection with,” Gormley continued. “The Spanish episode (Terra Firma) has a woman who is angry about how smaller rural communities get forgotten about, with people being encouraged to move to the cities for work. This young woman is proud of her local community and their traditions that bring them closer together, and she believes the EU offers a false promise of prosperity to those who leave and move abroad. Many people in the audience said they were touched by the sentiment of this young woman who feels a real connection to where she's from. I think a lot of people found the stories surprising which was part of why we made them, as — in the UK at least — we don't have a real understanding of what Europe means to other member states. We wanted to get beyond the news headlines and hear very personal stories of how politics affect people's lived reality.”

With films translated into six languages, Gormley hopes that the shorts will help enrich the current divisive debate about the positives and negatives of the European Union.

“Our goal is to open up a conversation about where the EU and Europe is right now, to take stock of what it has achieved and think about its future, for it's clear that whatever issues we have ahead of us, they can only be solved together.”

The films are now available to be viewed on The Guardian website here.

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