| Film History | The First Shift |

The Diagonale is pleased to announce the first program in its Film History series, along with some of the films that have already been confirmed. Under the title The First Shift – 60 Years of Labor Migration as Seen from the Countries of Origin, the festival is devoting eight programs to the still highly political issue of labor migration. However, this is being done predominantly from a reversed perspective: the focus is not on the view from Austria, Germany, and Switzerland of the migrant workers who have come to us, but rather mostly the positions of filmmakers from the home countries. It has been 60 years since the first “guest workers” arrived here, returned, and then came back. What was originally intended to be temporary work developed into a permanent situation. However, the hardships experienced in the new environment were hushed up at the political level, and many problems persist to this day.

The First Shift offers a change of perspective on a seemingly “familiar” environment, with a selection of films such as these:

Halo, München / Hello Munich (1967) and Specijalni vlakovi / The Special Trains (1971), both by Krsto Papić, are about setting off for Germany and Austria and returning home, as well as the resulting contradictory life situations in both places. Kara Kafa / Black Head (1979) by Korhan Yurtsever describes the ordeal and its effects in the fabric of an immigrant family. The new life in Germany offers theoretically unlimited possibilities, but these also entail unexpected pitfalls – as, for example, when the mother of the family begins to get involved in the women’s movement. The film was banned by the Turkish censorship authority at the time and all copies were confiscated. Only recently did the original negatives surface, on the basis of which Kara Kafa could be restored.

Filmstill from Kara Kafa © Korhan Yurtsever


Inventur – Metzstraße 11 (1975) by Želimir Žilnik was shot in the stairwell of a Munich apartment building. Žilnik, who himself went to Germany as a worker at that time, transforms this place of passage into the site of brief but meaningful encounters. In front of the camera, the residents of the house talk about their origins as well as their wishes, hopes, and worries. Analphabeten in zwei Sprachen (Illiterates in Two Languages) (1975) by the German-Iranian filmmaker Mehrangis Montazami-Dabui, like most of the films in the program, is still alarmingly relevant: the short documentary sheds light on the problems that children from a migrant background have in school, which in turn are also closely linked to the difficulties in finding their way between two cultures and finding their place. In Wo sein Wäsche (Where Is Laundry) (1975) by Dieter Berner, which was created as part of the ORF series Stories from Austria, a Yugoslavian couple learns the sometimes Kafkaesque ways of Austrian bureaucracy: Ms. Stankovic has given birth to her child at home without medical assistance, and now none of the official documents exist that are needed to get the urgently needed baby laundry pack. In the narrow-minded officials’ offices, the baby alone is not sufficient proof that it actually exists – and needs clean diapers.

The program is curated by Petra Popovic, Dominik Kamalzadeh, and Claudia Slanar in cooperation with the ORF and Jurij Meden (of the Austrian Film Museum). Diagonale would like to thank Faime Alpagu, Fatih Aydoğdu, and Can Sungu for their support.

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