| Film History | Die erste Schicht |

The First Shift
By Dominik Kamalzadeh and Claudia Slanar

The historical special program Die erste Schicht (“The first shift”) deals with the topic of labor migration. Austria signed the first so-called “guest worker agreement” with Turkey in 1964, and then with the former Yugoslavia in 1966. We decided to shift the perspective: away from the reduction of labor migration to concepts of foreignness, uprooting, and identity, toward ones of self-will and emancipation, an awakening spirit of self-assertion and resistance – and, last but not least, to an abundant cultural production.

The range of topics is large and diverse: parallel to the first workers, directors began to deal with the departures, arrivals, and finally, living environments in the so-called guest countries in documentaries and feature films. Short documentaries by Krsto Papić, Želimir Žilnik, and Miroslav Mikuljan; and feature films, such as Bogdan Žižić’s Ne naginji se van (Don’t Lean out the Window, 1977) or Živojin Pavlović’s Let mrtve ptice (The Flight of Dead Bird, 1973), deal with the promises and temptations of the West, and the – often disillusioned – return home. And they tell of contradictory dependencies in both places: Bay Okan’s Otobüs (The Bus, 1975) describes a surreal clash between fearful newcomers and the locals in Stockholm, Korhan Yurtsever’s Kara Kafa (Black Head, 1979), the breaking point in the fabric of an immigrant family. The original negatives, which were banned by the Turkish authorities, have only recently resurfaced, and could be used as a base for the restoration of Kara Kafa.

The films in the series have lost none of their relevance: Analphabet in zwei Sprachen (Illiterate in Two Languages) by German-Iranian filmmaker Mehrangis Montazami-Dabui shows the problems children with an immigrant background face at school, which are also closely tied to the difficulties of finding one’s way between two cultures, and finding one’s own place.

Filmstill aus Kara Kafa © Korhan Yurtsever

Film history is always linked with canon formation. The Diagonale sees itself in the special position of being available for this, as well as a national (film) historiography, and questioning the construct of national identity. Which positions have fallen into “oblivion,” which have been deliberately excluded, and how can a different history be written?

As a film series and as an edition in book form, Die erste Schicht should ideally have an impact beyond the festival, and be an impetus to engage with a transnational film heritage and collaboratively expand archival practice with films and film documents.

Curated by Petra Popovic, Dominik Kamalzadeh and Claudia Slanar in Cooperation with the ORF and Jurij Meden (Austrian Film Museum). Thanks for the support to Faime Alpagu, Fatih Aydoğdu and Can Sungu.


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