The video series shining a light on personal European stories
Every day we are confronted with news and views on the many issues that concern us as people living in Europe.
The lives of those living in modern Europe are subject to ever greater, and often conflicting, pressures. But monitoring the flow of events can easily seem bewildering, abstract and impersonal. Too often the very real, personal impact of a news story is hidden from sight.
Migration and movement
Digitalization and increased transport infrastructure means that the world has never been so small. National borders are no longer the barriers they once were to movement, and as a consequence, many people are migrating to where they feel that there are more opportunities.
In the ARTE RE: series, Viktoria and Zoltan make the move from Hungary to Germany. Both workers for Bosch, they see Germany as a land removed from the ‘frustration, nepotism and corruption’ that they see in Hungary. However, it’s not all smooth sailing. The language barrier, job rejections for Zoltan and a lack of assistance for new arrivals all must be overcome.
The series also follows Pippa, who is the British descendant of Jewish Germans as she seeks to return to the land of her ancestors. Pippa, especially, wants to learn about her grandfather’s role in the First World War, before the wide-scale persecutions of Jews began. However, it is really her homeland? What connects her to it? How long does it take us to lose our sense of identity?
As Pippa muses as she follows her family’s history: “Where exactly was I? Home or elsewhere?
Saving the planet
Reversing the damage that man has done to the planet has been a hot-button issue for decades. In recent years, the startling increase in global warming has brought the issue to the fore. It seems that every day we are faced with debates over what can be done to prevent perhaps fatal climate change.
ARTE RE: takes us to see people making extraordinary choices in the battle against climate change. In France, Vincent struggles against scepticism and the challenges of farming as he tries to bring a hemp crop to fruition – a material that he believes is far more sustainable than other crops used to make both foodstuffs and fabrics.
In Wales, the Watkinsons live a life completely off the grid. They generate their own power, maintain their own water source and pick their own food, in an attempt to live in such a way that their ‘ecological footprint’ is far smaller than the average consumer.
As Matthew Watkinson states: “We’re only using our fair share of the earth’s renewable resources. In the West, we’re living as if we have two or three planets. In America, they’re living as if they have five.
“The party is coming to an end, I think. The planet can’t take it, the climate can’t take it.”
Far away in the Hebrides, Rock lives a similar lifestyle in such a way that it leaves as little trace as possible – yet as both can see, change may be irreversible, despite their efforts.
Rock, for example, ponders the inexorable arrival of plastic on his island: “More and more keeps coming in. We can’t win”.
Rock walks in the Hebrides. Photo: ARTE.tv
Matteo Salvini and supporters in Rome. Footage: ARTE.tv
Populism and the power of the people
With an ever-changing environment, and human movement on an unprecedented, it can be hard for governments to keep up in governing individual nations. This has both fed, and enabled a rise in populist movements that who have scapegoated both certain minority groups, and institutions such as the European Union. These groups are portrayed as being technocratic, out of touch and not fit for the realities of the 21st century.
In one recent ARTE RE: episode, Italy’s Republic Day is the scene for rising tensions, as supporters of populist politician Matteo Salvini meet Daniel and Emmanuele, supporters of a pro-European group. Can Daniel’s impassioned entreaties of “Italy and Europe, together strong!” win over his opponents, or will it only further inflame their anger? With emotions high, and the pan-European response to the coronavirus pandemic at the forefront of many Italians minds, will there be a chance for dialogue – or will polarisation continue?