Wednesday 12 May 2010

Foreign Film - Dawn Weleski

Foreign Film is a video that combines factual and fictional narratives of the lives of foreigners, specifically the Turkish guest worker population in Kreuzburg, Berlin. The final 15-minute video will incorporate documentation of actual immigrant life in Berlin and staged reproductions of foreign life, where native Germans play immigrants. My residency will be divided into three phases, including initial research and raw video footage collection, the formulation and performance of scripts, and editing of real and staged footage into a final video.

The social and cultural makeup of Germany is central to Foreign Film. As formally declared in 2005, Germany is a “nation of immigrants”. About eighteen percent of people living in Germany are first or second generation immigrants. With the reunification of Germany in 1990 and the highest immigration gain of any country in Western Europe during the second half of the twentieth century, immigrant populations in all of Germany are charged with navigating complex cultural and social issues that define the search for German identity. Recent legislation and policy is concurrently attempting to satisfy the needs of Germany as a member of the European Union and as an independent nation, all the while reducing comprehension of individual conflict and lessening the exposure of personal tales of migration. The notion of “Germanness”, or “Deutshsein", for natives and immigrants alike is still very
much in flux.

Foreign Film will provide a forum for immigrants to tell the stories of their lives. Beneath the stereotypes lie personal stories that lend empathy. The German-Turkish writer Zafer Senocak warns that Germany’s rung in the Western ladder is dependent on a reformation of German identity through cultural assimilation and recognition of diversity. Beyond the desire for a cohesive German state is the actualization of a contemporary German identity, one that recognizes both presently ignored facts and widely accepted fictions. Whether gastarbeiter (guest workers), ethnic Germans, asylum seekers or refugees, immigrants are essential to the nation's economic sustainability. One in every ten births in Germany is to a foreigner, and this positive foreign growth rate is vital to Germany’s economy. Immigrant-related issues cloud the politics and social landscape of many nations, but the reunification of East and West Germany complicates socioeconomic issues that affect the everyday lives of German and the fundamentals of German identity.

The twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall is a time to reflect on positive personal experiences of integration and allows the public to name urgent needs within distressed foreign communities. As an artist, I would like to serve as a vessel for these dialogues.