Multilingualism and the arts

Seeing Language through the Lens: A Media Competition on Multilingualism

The competition Language through Lenses at the Prix Europa Festival in Berlin and Potsdam  Photo: Matjaz Boncina © iStockphotoThe competition “Language through Lenses” at the Prix Europa Festival in Berlin and Potsdam  Photo: Matjaz Boncina © iStockphotoAwards were recently given for “Languages through Lenses”, a media competition that is part of the European Year of Creativity and Innovation 2009. Accolades went to young filmmakers who created videos focused on the multilingual landscape of Europe.

A total of 122 applications were received from art college students in 18 European Union countries plus Norway and Turkey. From those, 15 film projects were selected for funding, each of them receiving 5,000 Euros. The films, which ranged from one to three minutes in length, attempt to illustrate the inherent potential of the 23 official languages as well as the regional, minority and migrant languages in Europe. The goal of the Languages through Lenses competition, put on by the European League of the Institutes of Arts (ELIA) and the European Commission for Multilingualism, is to create awareness among young European viewers of the benefits of living in a linguistically and culturally diverse Europe.

Innovation and creativity through multilingualism

Award winner Katarzyna Miron from Poland  Photo: Norbert Kesten © Shamrock Photos BerlinFrom October 17-24 the films selected from students at art colleges in Austria, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Latvia, The Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden, Turkey and Great Britain were shown at the Prix Europa Festival in Berlin and Potsdam. After being part of last year’s supporting program, the Languages through Lenses competition this year was made into one of the eight main categories at Prix Europa and now focuses specifically on producing young talent in the media world. For the 23rd time at the festival, productions from TV, radio and emerging media were presented and awarded prizes, this year under the label “Made in Europe”.

Tame message, creative methods

What would the world be like if all of its animals spoke the same language. How similar are baby talk and the words that describe sounds (onomatopoeias)? How do older people deal with the language diversity of the EU? How do you say “cheese” in Lithuanian? What can we learn from communication between toddlers? If love really is the universal language, why is it so difficult to find the right words on a first date at an Erasmus party? And what are the consequences of not having any foreign language skills – given that it won’t kill you right away?

The winners of the Prix  Europa 2009   Photo:  Norbert Kesten © Shamrock Photos BerlinAll of the films show that multilingualism strengthens the individual as well as the community, and that the uniqueness of every single language is fascinating beyond just understanding it. By the third film, this message – which was expressly called for in the description of the competition – may seem a bit tame and even boring to the viewer, but that is what makes the perspectives shown by the directors of the 43 pieces from 2008/2009 all the more refreshing. They approached the subject matter with joy and sarcasm, dreamy sequences and music, or with realism and abstraction.

The winners: Hybridus Linguaflorum and Worldomino

Laudator Harald Hartung with the award winner  Photo: Norbert Kesten © Shamrock Photos BerlinIn the one-minute film Hybridus Linguaflorum, which was awarded the Jury Prize, Finnish student Katarzyna Miron compares languages with living organisms that are in a constant state of development. New words are created and different languages influence and define one another. “This is a very well told film describing the variety of languages in symbiotic harmony. A poetic tale with symbols from the world of flowers, full of appealing artistic qualities and advanced professionalism,” is how the jury justified their selection of Hybridus Linguaflorum given the criteria “artistic vision”, “relevance to the topic”, and “conveyance of the message”. The Public Choice award, which was voted via Internet, went to the three-minute film Worldomino, from Istanbul student Oğuzhan Kaya. In the film, every language of the world is represented by a letter on a domino. As the dominos fall together they form a map of Europe and then the entire world.

Janna Degener
studied Linguistics, Ethnology and New German Literature. She works as a freelance journalist in Cologne.

Translation: Kevin White
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
November 2009

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