Wednesday, March 25, 2009

IMPORT/EXPORT - immigration agitprop from Austria's enfant terrible

IMPORT/EXPORT is Austrian auteur, Ulrich Seidl's, new agitfilm about the economic relationship between "old" and "new" Europe. It's an unflinching and sporadically very funny look at the profound economic and social disruptions that have come in the wake of the end of the Cold War and the extension of the European Union. The movie tells two symmetrical stories. A single-mother living in deep poverty in Ukraine can't make ends meet as a nurse. Refusing to become a sex-worker, performing over the web for rich Germans, she comes to Austria and works in an old-people's home. Her story is mostly tragic and realistic and will certainly resonate with those of us living in Western European capital cities benefiting from the influx of East European cleaners, plumbers and waitresses, half of them working well below their qualifications. At the same time, an Austrian father and step-son are disenfranchised in their own land - along with many Western European manual workers who have found themselves out-competed by cheaper, better trained and harder working eastern Europeans. They end up journeying to the Ukraine as truckers, and while their situation is laughably pathetic, they can still use their Euros to sexually humiliate local girls. The resulting film is provocative, handsomely shot, and more entertaining than the grim subject matter might suggest. Highly recommended.

IMPORT/EXPORT played Cannes and Toronto 2007 and opened in the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria and Greece last year. It opened earlier this year in Poland, Belgium, Sweden, the Netherlands, Russia and Romania. It is currently on limited release in the UK and is also available on DVD.

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