German Series in Canada
Tribes of Europa
March 2021. The media world is in uproar. All channels are humming incessantly, and the provocative word that has caused the stir is “identity”. Or rather the so-called politics of identity, which is how culturally conservative media people refer to the efforts undertaken by minorities who want their concerns to be given just as much consideration and taken just as seriously as those of majority groups in society. So it’s very interesting that “Tribes of Europa” has appeared on the scene right in the midst of this heated debate – a new Netflix miniseries produced in Germany that depicts a Europe in which society has broken down into tribal groups following an apocalypse. Can this dystopian drama thus be interpreted as a declaration of love for the European ideal of a cohesive and united society?
By Sascha Ehlert
BlackoutAs is the wont of post-apocalyptic scenarios, the series begins with some facts: 2029 experienced a global blackout. When the technology failed, the European Union collapsed, as did the nation states. Anarchy ruled supreme and Europe became a pre-modern construct in which various tribes defended their few square miles of territory against each another with force rather than diplomacy. This is the world into which Liv, Kiano and Elja from the Origines tribe were born. Their tribal affiliation is more important than anything else in this world, and has replaced the need for surnames. When a spaceship from Atlantis (the mythical city in the ocean is a place they yearn for, and may perhaps also have triggered the technological disaster around which the series revolves) crashes in Origines territory, their peaceful lives in harmony with nature are destroyed right in the first episode.
This is because the Atlantian technology would supposedly give whomever possessed it supremacy over Europa, prompting two other tribes, the Crimsons and the Crows, to enter the fray. The Crows massacre the peaceful nature-loving Origines and enslave the survivors; all the key chess pieces have now taken up their positions on the board. Kiano is sent to work as a slave for the Crows in what used to be Berlin, helping to mine for drugs in a factory, while Liv has the good fortune to survive and ends up in the Crimsons’ camp. Elja, like Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, sets off with a more or less trusty companion, a scrap dealer, to travel through the lands to find out what the purpose might be of the cube-like Atlantian technology that he discovered in the crashed spaceship and that everyone wants to get their hands on.
Origines, Crows, CrimsonsThis is the premise for “Tribes of Europa”, which was written and produced by the German director Philip Koch. Koch specializes in precisely such “uncomfortable” topics; his first screenplays dealt with things like prisoners who drove one another to suicide (“Picco”) or abuse and child trafficking (“Operation Sugar”). And the world of “Tribes of Europa” also dabbles in extreme darkness. The Crows for example are a tribe driven by archaic violence and drug abuse who celebrate hedonistic parties in former industrial buildings and whose initiation ritual involves a fight to the death. Kiano, before winning his freedom by killing his own father at the end of the season, ends up in the clutches of a female Crow member who rapes him. Liv, on the other hand, falls in love with a young officer with the Crimsons, who are all that remain of the European military, who later likewise kills his own father. This is because his father wants to begin peace negotiations with the Crows, whereas he would prefer to butcher them all. And this is just the tip of the iceberg of violence in this series, which sees gallons of blood flowing during its six 45-minute episodes.
BloodlustOf course, excessive violence per se does not necessarily make for a bad story. In “Tribes of Europa”, however, all the murder and abuse delivers little more than cheap shock value. Though it keeps one watching, it does a rather poor job of concealing the vacuum at the heart of the tale. One wonders what Koch was hoping to achieve with this series, which for the most part is in fact visually very appealing (with the exception of the involuntarily comical scenes of the Crows orgies, which are perhaps how people in Ontario imagine a “normal” Berlin party). Is he keen to stress how dangerous it is if we no longer pursue a grand common ideal and instead attempt to place minority interests more firmly in the spotlight of public attention? This is what one might presume, yet any potential content or intended statement is lost in the camera’s bloodlust. And even this would be fine if one gained the impression that the director was genuinely interested in the fates of the characters who find themselves abused, tortured and murdered in the series – but unfortunately, this is not the case. The most striking example is Kiano. Emilio Sakraya really does do his best to breathe life into the young man, but how is he supposed to succeed if even the depiction of his rape comes across as erotic rather than traumatic?
"We will never perish"Is this series perhaps a drastically exaggerated commentary on our present-day and on the risks that we supposedly face if we no longer follow so-called “universal” ideals but try instead to give equal consideration to all individual interests? This may be so, though it is not one written with any particular sensitivity. And anyway, what statement is a series trying to make in which the sympathetic characters belong to a tribe that has retreated deep into the romantic gloom of the German forest? Whose members say things like: “We are the voices of the forest, the blood of the earth (..) We will never perish.”? A series in which a number of black people are cast for the sake of diversity, yet who for the most part are merely cannon fodder or extras? A series in which the Crows, who look like a blend of heavy metal freaks and hardcore nightclub ravers with a fetish for all things military, may be the only obvious Nazis, and yet most of the tribes somehow seem to adhere to racial stereotypes? A series in which the Femen tribe appears only right at the end – the radical feminists (original quote: “Don’t go there with your wiener still attached.”) are of course kept back in case a second season is approved – and is portrayed by a Spanish-speaking hippy Amazon on horseback? To be honest, not any statement I care to hear.
The series remained in Netflix's top ten for nearly a week after its release and manages to garner impressive viewer scores. Its dedicated audience is hoping for a second season which has yet to be announced by Netflix.
Six episodes at 44 - 49 min. A W&B Television production: Executive producers are Quirin Berg, Max Wiedemann and Maximilian Vetter.
Created by Philip Koch (showrunner, head writer, director of episodes 1, 2, 6 and executive producer)
Cast: Emilio Sakraya, Henriette Confurius, David Ali Rashed, Oliver Masucci, Melika Foroutan, Robert Finster, Ana Ularu.
Watch "TRIBES OF EUROPA"
In Canada and In GermanyNetflix