Bruno Ulmer’s haunting documentary “Welcome Europa” adds an aching testimony to the list of films on immigration to the “fortress” of Europe

Anette Olsen
Script writer, webfilm producer in Safran Film and journalist based in Denmark. Former editor of DOX Magazine (2001-02 and 2004-05).

Welcome Europa

Bruno Ulmer

France 2006, 90 min.

Bruno Ulmer used powerful and cinematic visuals that describe the violence and humiliation experienced from exclusion and the stressful living conditions of people who struggle for a better life

The film follows eight illegal immigrants from Romania, Morocco and Turkey on their constant roaming around in the streets of European cities like Rome, Paris and Amsterdam in search for work, something to eat or a place to sleep. They live on the darkest side of society, often risking their lives in prostitution depraved of their last bit of self dignity and morality. Shifty-eyed with wounded bodies and souls, they are constantly on the move and on the run from police authorities.

Bridging observational style and poetic realism, the handheld camera follows closely from one place to another, from one city to the next, capturing the pulse of life on the edge, wrapping it all up in almost voluptuous colours like in a feature film. In contrast, the extreme close-ups of the character’s faces shot in raw black and white makes the interview-sequences where they comment on their life face to face with the camera painfully intimate. The film insists on being personal by feeding emotion into the narrow framing of faces and eyes that leave little space for ’escape’ but  ’sucks’ the viewer into a sensation of despair. In those harsh black and white encounters every romantic colourful pixel of the European dream is literally washed out leaving nothing but the sad and concrete image of suffering and hopelessness.

Europe has become an illusion, and the men portrayed in the film have lost the sense of what it means to be a man, their identity as men have been undermined. In a world that doesn’t really give a damn and certainly doesn’t reach out a hand, it’s either swim or sink, and like Mehmet, a Kurd from Turkey who fled his country when constant imprisonments, torturing and prosecutions of his family made it too dangerous for him to stay in Turkey, says:”I realized that some will live and that some have to die”. Almost a biblical quote if it wasn’t for its sad actuality.

The film is not a usual portrait of people and their lives. Ulmer works intensely with space, using a handheld camera that moves with and around the characters capturing eyes and looks in narrow framings that visualizes the ”condition humaine” with great emotional impact.

 


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