The Neu Europe

The Neu Europe
This collection of Euro shorts offered a needed shot of serious drama in the festival. Shot like a black and white documentary, Edward Feldman’s A Day’s Work follows a single Czech mother taking care of her young boy as she weeps in a recording studio for an arrogant Hollywood director. Well-shot and performed, the film is both touching and absurd.

The tongue-in-cheek How I Became A Freelance Tour Guide is a first-hand account of a young German who tries being a freelance tour guide. In the process, director Jan Peters uncovers the grey economy of the new Germany, where the unskilled collect empty bottles for four-and-a-half Euros (about seven Canadian) an hour and increasingly more white-collar professionals take contract gigs instead of full-time jobs.

Jose Carrasco’s Padam... takes a light-hearted look at East versus West. Forty-year-old Pilar of Spain finds a young Croat through a dating agency. The Croat’s manic energy eventually penetrates Pilar’s tough shell. Padam... offers a modern spin on Euro romance.

In contrast, Waves by writer/director Adrian Sitaru offers a subtle though unsettling look at the new Europe. A Swiss woman goes missing on a crowded Romanian beach after she entrusts her young son to a hustler. The cinematography by Adrian Silisteanu is outstanding.

Cargo by Leo Woodhead enters darker territory. This Czech/New Zealand collaboration follows a young Czech boy who transforms from innocent smuggling victim into hardened active smuggler. The film is a haunting portrait of evil in the making.

Similarly, Marc Brummond’s Gaining Ground features solid acting and writing, telling the story of Andrej, a Ukrainian illegal hiding in Germany with his wife. However, Andrej’s son wants to go to school, which means risking deportation. This drama is well constructed without being preachy, inviting comparisons to British director Ken Loach.

The Europe portrayed here is a troubling one where the have-nots from the former Soviet Bloc clash with the affluent West. To be continued.