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Germany Meets Greece: We are “the Others”


1 September 2012

Relations between Germany and Greece are rather tense when judging by the reports on the Euro crisis. It is therefore high time for a change of perspective. This is precisely what twelve teenagers from both countries recently did – with a camera in their hands. By Iannis Zoumboulakis

The Lives of Others is the title of the probably most successful German drama film of the past ten years. The idea to use it for a German-Greek exchange program focused on culture has audience appeal. “We want to explore the otherness of the others, and that is why we have called our program Fremdes Leben – Unknown Life,” says screenwriter, documentary filmmaker and writer Dieter Bongartz from the creative network Screenagers. The result was a German-Greek film workshop for young people from both countries working together earlier this year. Following an extensive selection procedure, six young people from each of the two countries were admitted to the project.

The students involved in the project, carried out jointly by Bergisch Gladbach Creative School, the Goethe-Institut Athens, the Greek Educational Institution for the Promotion of Documentary Film and Screenagers, were asked to take a look at the other country through the camera lens. What would catch the eye of a 15 to 20-year-old German in Greece, characterised as it is by the economic crisis, unemployment, arson attacks and angry demonstrators? What are the views of a peer from Greece on “threatening” Ms. Merkel’s "diabolical" Germany?

After receiving basic training in two film workshops, the participants began with the actual filming: some of the films were shot in Germany, some in Greece. The teams were made up of four members each, two from Germany and two from Greece.

Impressions were diverse, ranging from stereotypes to surprising discoveries. “My impression is that Germans are better organised than we are,” said for instance 16-year-old Marianna from Greece. Sinah, also 16, from Germany, by contrast noticed that “the Greek laugh from ear to ear.”

The stories picked out by the young people take place at the sidelines of the current events everybody is more or less informed about – through good or bad, moderate or biased mass media reporting. The truly interesting topics, however, can be found in the shadows of the big news stories. These stories are directly linked to people's real lives. They may focus on house squatting, a musical band of Spanish immigrants with Cuban roots, or a teacher who instructs deaf students for free, and also include a report about a pedestrian bridge built across the busy Kifissias Avenue with the help of student volunteers from Athens College. It was sponsored by a family that had lost a child in a traffic accident there.

New perspectives have grown from the German-Greek youth encounter, this is for certain. It is indeed clearly reflected in the statements of the teenagers speaking to journalists at the Goethe-Institut Athens. Marianna, for instance, says: “We went to Germany and came to Greece to overcome prejudice together, because we believe that together, we can make it happen. And that is precisely what we want.”
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