2014 is the year of the European Elections, but what will we be voting for? Will out votes be threatened by local politicians driven by fear, control and self-interest? Will our votes be bought by a capital too abstract to be converted into euros? Or will we be guided by the powers of water, wind and sun, which know no borders?
When the International Film Festival Rotterdam announced its central theme for 2014 to be a European 'Grand Tour' all we could think was: What Europe? Which Europe? Where Europe? Who Europe? We realized that, according to the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs on December 13th 2013 the European Union counted 36 (aspirant) countries. And that over the years the IFFR had shown films from most of these countries, making them strange and familiar, close and far away at the same time. But we've been there, we've seen there. They made us Europe.
For the 2014 Slow Criticism Project we've invited critics and writers from all these 36 nations to write a guest column in this wonderful euro-English that is our lingua franca about the state of cinema in their country. And since cinema is so closely related to who we are, what we feel, what we dream, we've asked them to write about that too. We weren't looking for facts & figures, for economics & industry, but for a snapshot, some instantaneous, and haphazard exposure, an examination of the cinematic pulse, a shipwrecked treasure from the tidelines, a message from the fault lines of history and the trenches of life. We asked them to be foreign correspondents in their own countries, travelling ambassadors in the realm of cinephilia, to lend us their ears and eyes and hearts and other senses to become the intelligences of this weird and wonderful beast that is Europe.
All these texts are written with the urgency of poetry and personal politics; together they make up for an impossible travel guide, an imaginary map, an underground network with rivers and passageways that connect and create loopholes in time. This special dossier couldn't have been compiled without the help of friends and friends of friends willing to write. Let that comradeship be our resistance. And if you miss reports from one or two countries it's because even in these days of instant interwebs some words need their own time. We'll make sure to add them online. And please do not hesitate to send us your own thoughts if you feel they're missing. Let our joint Project Europa be a thorn in the side, a thorn in the crown and a crown on the head of this fantastic monster that is Europe too.
We've long been looking for an appropriate title for this year's project. From the beginning on these lines from the poem 'Aubade' by the Dutch/Flemish poet Benno Barnard shimmered above our horizon:
"The day is white as dough.
I stare with stinging eyes
at the gods' gold watch,
hung between the fraying clouds:
the time is three thousand years in Europe."
And there we rediscovered our ancient motto. Which is also an ageless password. Take your compass and knapsack. Let's go discover the world. On a troubadours trail. Let this be our 'aubade', our morning love song to you.
Dana Linssen is Editor in chief of de Filmkrant
P.S. And then you ask me dear friend, what is going on in The Netherlands? Should I tell you that we had a film in the Cannes Competition last year — Alex van Warmerdam's Borgman — and that that hadn't happened in 38 years? Can you imagine that? And that Nanouk Leopold's It's All So Quiet opened the Berlinale's Panorama Special. Yeah, we were somewhat proud. And then disappointed all over again that the general audiences rather went to see homegrown pick-and-mix romantic comedies. And that the film establishment squabbled about tax rebates and awards for box office achievement. Should I remind you that we come from the country with some of the best clouds and skies and oh that mesmerizing bleak winter's light above the endless horizons but that we somehow fail to imagine adventurous panoramas and fearless views? And that like every other year the gap was lamented between the audience's darlings and the critic's favourites? Should I really repeat that we come from a flat country so gaps need to be evened out? We turned over some earth instead and hope you like what you see. It's fruitful and fertile and full of life.