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'The backdrop is Europe': film festival brings European issues to Chapel Hill

UNC professor Letitia Guran holds faculty discussion at the EU Film Festival. The film "R.M.N." was shown on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024 at the FedEx Global Education Center.

This weekend, community members witnessed and experienced a variety of European cultures during the UNC Center for European Studies' third annual EU Film Festival. 

The festival, which ran from Jan. 26-29, featured European-produced films that highlight contemporary issues in the region.

The featured films, which come from a variety of European countries and identities, include geopolitical subject matter such as immigration in the thriller "Mitra" and climate activism in the documentary "Lonely Oaks." 

“It gives folks a chance to 'see Europe' with their own eyes,” Katie Shanahan Lindner, the executive director of the CES said. "This whole weekend, you get to see the Netherlands, you get to see Germany, Italy and Romania, all in one weekend, and without even traveling.”

She said the festival allows attendees an opportunity to look at important issues through both American and European lenses and talk about it in ways that differ from classroom conversations.

The festival began with a showing of 2021’s “Mitra,” which follows a female Iranian immigrant to the Netherlands who confronts the woman who may have betrayed her daughter and led to her execution. The film, directed by Iranian-Dutch filmmaker Kaweh Modiri, is a thriller with themes of revenge, immigration and national identity. It features broad messages that can be applied to a number of nations in the modern world.

“It’s a global issue,” Dan Thornton, Dutch professor and host of the festival’s showing of “Mitra,” said. “It’s not just specific to, in this case, the Netherlands or Europe. We have, as a society, also, to figure out how we are going to welcome and integrate people who come here seeking a better life.”

After "Mitra," Thornton led a group discussion and Q&A about the audience's interpretation of the film and its application to the real world. All of the films were followed by similar conversations with UNC faculty. 

“Mitra” was not alone in its global pursuit — each film in the festival lineup is similarly applicable to the world stage. The messages of the various films shown throughout are emblematic of the purpose of the CES, and the festival was a way to bring these ideas to the attention of the wider UNC community, Lindner said.

“I think film, in general, is a very easy medium for people to digest multiple topics that might be difficult to learn about or digest just in script,” Chapel Hill resident and attendee Germaine Frances Rohleder-Stribl said. “In that way, it’s a useful tool to have people come together.”

Beyond sociopolitical issues, the films brought a proverbial taste of Europe to UNC. Though often not the focus of their plots, these films all, at least partially, take place in Europe, allowing for an eye-level view into the cultures of their various settings.

“The backdrop is Europe,” Thornton said. “But at the end of the day it’s about being a human being in this world, right?”

@dthlifestyle | lifestyle@dailytarheel

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