Since a few years Utrecht, homebase to this blog, has the luck of having the Eastern Neighbours Film Festival taking place in this town. Intention of the main organizers Aleksandar Velinovksi, Rada Sesic and Mak Kapetanovic was to bring those countries not yet in the EU into focus by presenting the best films of these eastern neighbours. One can say they did make quite an appearance on the festival scene: suddenly the LHC cinema was bustling with languages that were not spoken so loud in this little town. One could hear all Jugoslav accents, smoking was a logic thing and the concerts by amongst others Fatima Spar connected all present. In the words of the festival organizers: ”We feel that cinema brings people closer to each other, makes them understand each other’s culture better and deeper, gives an inside view into the mentality and history of our neighbours, makes us appreciate and enjoy each other genuinely.”
With Western European countries closing the borders again, and at some points acting against the Schengen Agreements allowing EU members free travel within the Schengen countries, it is necessary to have cultural artefacts such as films stating people there are just as here: people. Policymakers do have the same urge and some official conferences were called together – to no avail it seems. Now that the Iron Wall is no longer there, the differing historical backgrounds do play a role. According to the article Seven circles of European memory the European nations still need to develop a common story, a shared history.
One country that deserves some special attention in these matters is Turkey. Since decades the country is an associate memberstate of the EU, but never did it become a full member. This reluctant approach pushed elites in Turkey to develop stronger ties looking east- and southwards. Now with Turkey’s economy booming the EU needs to come to terms with a feeling of ‘ooops, something went wrong here’. In addition to this the Netherlands and Turkey share 400 years of diplomatic ties in 2012. In this perspective as well – it might be the right country to put in focus at this years’ festival.