Dieter Wieczorek
Wieczorek is a film critic and regular contributor to Modern Times Review.

Eldorado is a testament to the increased brutalisation of our human perception over the last decade.

Today the counting of dead bodies on European borders is commonly perceived as «the usual stuff». At the same time, a new trend is already apparent: surveillance airplanes and rescue missions are limited or even omitted in order to conceal the visibility of the catastrophe. People die better unobserved.

What can a filmmaker do faced with the trivialisation of a human catastrophe? In Eldorado – presented at the Berlinale this year – director Markus Imhoof uses his own personal memories to shed a new light on the current immigration crisis.

«Europe is participating in an on-going, perfected criminal act.»

In tender voice-overs, the audience is witness to his correspondence and the exchanging of letters with his childhood friend and wartime refugee, Giovanna.

Giovanna was a young, starving, Italian girl who was chosen by her family to obtain some temporary security for herself and her family during WWII. She was left at a depot station shortly after the breakout of war in Imhoof’s Swiss hometown (in close proximity to Zurich) amongst many other waiting and needy youngsters, as part of a children transport program organised by the Red Cross. Imhoof‘s family took in little Giovanna in order to help her and her family for a couple of months in the neutral country.

In times of rationing, Imhoof’s family shared their food in spite of all the shortages. Some months later Giovanna was forced to go back to Italy, only able to visit her family in Switzerland one more time before she had to leave. She died shortly after due to lack of medical assistance.

In this documentary, we witness how Imhoof‘s memories of his tender dialogue and correspondence with Giovanna become vivid and lifelike again.

Neoliberal paradoxes

After visiting his own childhood memories, Imhoof turns the focus of the film to the conflict and refugee crisis that we are now witnessing, and follows in a step-by-step manner the scandalising «paradoxes» of the current neoliberal world policy. The first images portray drowned people on Italian coasts. He documents the operations of «Mare Nostrum», which has so far rescued about 100,000 people’s lives.

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