There was once a place in Vienna where people could study and learn how to live together. Under the auspices of the City of Vienna, modules were developed in an EU-funded joint project to make it easier for refugees – but also newcomers in general – to find their way around the city. Everyday life was to be self-determined with the help of refugees in the capacity of experts. The EU funding has meanwhile run out. What remains is a documentary by Thomas Fürhapter, who, with Judith Benedikt and Klemens Koscher with their steady camera, plows through the diverse course program, listens to the people working out possible solutions, and above all, looks at faces with real devotion.
The devotion is because all of them are beautiful. One thinks of Warhol’s Screen Tests and wishes to dwell on their faces longer. Besides the things that people naturally carry along with them, each face also tells of an opening, a hope, an overcoming – otherwise they wouldn’t be there. In addition to curiosity and uncertainty, skepticism is written on many of their faces. Some are openly traumatized; there are tears. Others are there because “There are always things you don’t think about”. In one sequence using sign language, polygamy is discussed; a policewoman in plain clothes explains what “No Means No” is all about, and gestures of greeting as well as funeral rituals are on the program. There is also a discussion of toilet hygiene that gets out of hand. Using the toilet is a ritual too. There is much laughter: for example, about wearing the Austrian flag as a hijab, which might be a part of the headscarf debate worth considering. “People here are different, in Vienna you should even be polite to street sweepers.” “Do you know Freud? How did the founder of psychoanalysis end up in Vienna? The thoughts of the people here are very confused.”
“Stop Look Listen” signs are often still found at U.S. railroad crossings. “Look Listen Learn” could be transferred to interpersonal relations. The conclusions that everyone might then draw for themselves depends on personal circumstances, but taking each other seriously would be a good start. (Regina Schlagnitweit)
Translation: John Wojtowicz
How is Vienna’s culture mediated to migrants? The documentary feature entitled LIVING TOGETHER follows new migrants from different countries beginning with their first step into a new country. What expectations do migrants have of Vienna? What information and values are mediated to them in the “integration courses” and what is not? (production note)
"LIVING TOGETHER is a precisely composed documentary that breaks down cultural barriers. The narrative not only focuses on the protagonists, but intentionally connects the viewer to a profound cultural experience that deconstructs stereotypes. With a simple but powerful cinematic language - one setting, multiple classrooms, immersive portraits, and a participatory approach to discussing difficult and uncomfortable topics - the film proposes an inclusive method to enable cultural inclusion."
(excerpt jury statement/ VIKTOR DOK.deutsch award for the best German-language documentary film at the 37th DOK.fest Munich, 2022)