Living Europe

When you read the news today, you feel like the world system is on the edge of a major collapse: economic crises, natural disasters, terrorism and enormous flows of refugees. The newspapers are filled with worrying predictions and statistics. Politicians try to cover up their desperation and their inability to make long-term changes. It seems like the situation has never been as bad, but of course it has. Since human history, there have been wars and conflicts with short periods of peace. We have seen such a period in the last 70 years in Europe (apart from a Cold War and the ethnic conflicts in former Yugoslavia). How was that peace possible and what can young people do to prevent another dark phase?

Projects like “Make Film, Make History” are one example for action. When I first learned about this project during my traineeship at the Goethe-Institut Mannheim, I was somewhat sceptical. “What can a movie about Europe contribute to sustainable peace?”, I thought. But after becoming a coordinator in the project and following its development, I understood its intrinsic value. I realized that it was not about young adults coming up with a great solution to current problems. It was also not about creating a persuasive peace of propaganda about European integration. The real significance lay in the opportunity to “live Europe”.

By coming together in the first residential in Ypres, Belgium, where the project was launched, the participants from Great Britain, Denmark and Germany had the chance to begin a long-term collaboration with their peers from neighbouring countries. They had the chance to learn that even if their accents were different and even if they had different food habits or views on politics, they had similar hopes and dreams for the future. I observed how debates over dinner led to “aha moments” and how friendships developed. The participants came to Ypres as national groups and went home as national groups, but the sense of “we” had changed. It now constitutes a bigger unit and stretches across borders.

The challenge since the residential has been to keep the collaboration going online. How do you keep in touch in a group of almost 40 persons? We came up with a variety of solutions for online interaction through skype conferences and facebook groups. In the 5 different facebook groups, participants plan further activities and receive support by their tutors. Especially script writing is an important step for realizing the 5 individual short films. For that reason, a Q&A session on script writing took place on 29th July in which a video with tips on script writing was posted by Chocalate Films on youtube. Everybody could ask questions and comment, so that a lively virtual meeting took place. Group work in the 21st century 

The success of the project now lies in the commitment and motivation of the participants to organize themselves until the next residential in London in April 2016. I strongly believe that if they manage to do that, a beautiful piece of work can be the result. In the end, all of us hope that the film will reach thousands of viewers and become an example to other cross-national collaborations. Our generation has different tools at hand to create a more peaceful world. The main one is to stop thinking in borders and see our neighbours as part of our larger family. That is why a project like “Make Film, Make History” is one little step in the right direction.