THE BEGINNING OF A STRANGE ERA. CINEMA, EUROPE AND AEGEE DURING THE 2000S.

Here is the third part of our series about Cinema, Europe and AEGEE through the decades. If readers want to read it completely, please, click on these two links to read about the first part (1980s) and the second part (1990s).

Many people celebrated the end of the 20th Century as the beginning of a wonderful new era. Everybody on every corner of the Earth believed that all desires and dreams could be made possible like in the last decade (to live, to love, to enjoy…). In Europe, one of them was the consolidation of a borderless and a more united continent in which citizens could access all the possibilities institutions could offer and that all people had equal rights. Twelve new countries, most of them from Eastern Europe, that were still coming to terms with their Communist past respectively, tried to present themselves in the best possible image to Western countries so that they could join into the European Union. As Turkey commenced its efforts to join the union, a new currency, the Euro, replaced some national currencies in twelve countries initially by the beginning of 2002 and the Euro Zone was established into the communitarian area.

Even the project of a European Constitution voted in 2005 by referendum in order to establish a common law in only one political text was thwarted by the rejection of France and the Netherlands. Since that moment, an institutional crisis has plagued the European Union by the differences between their member states, increased by the effect of the Economic Crisis of 2008. Some leaders and ordinary people started wondering if the EU was merely a market for privileged countries or a real project of integration of different sides of Europe. The reality, noticed by AEGEE members who worked hard to enable the real the dream of a borderless Europe since its foundation in 1985. Reaching two decades of life, AEGEE was to reach further and there were new obstacles at the turn of the 21st Century.

To face these new times, AEGEE did not remain the same youth students’ organisation that it was at its inception. Instead, it became more complex, mature and professional while the EU experienced its enlargement. Globalisation has definitely shown its dark side and many people assumed that, in the face of global problems, global solutions should be brought to the table by stronger cooperation. And this topic is necessary to understand cinema during the 2000s: no matter if in a film, a local problem is depicted because it has also its global side. We can find it from films with social thematic to fictional ones.

But, if we have to choose only one film that shows the reality of Europe and AEGEE during the 2000s decade, the choice is –surprisingly- an American one directed by a Mexican filmmaker: Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Babel (2006). Understanding this film is impossible if we don’t consider the effects of the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center (New York City) and the Pentagon (Washington D.C.) in 2001 had on the population all around the world. The fear of different people increased by an aggressive external policy with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A major presence of radicalism in political and religious movements became something real. And the introduction of national security laws that permit governments to control communications and the Internet for fighting the “enemies of democracy” were established. A new kind of paranoia became the new problem between people of different races, genders, nationalities, religious beliefs and economic levels, each one speaking a different “language” despite the fact that communication with each other was easier than before.

What can we find in Babel in this sense? Looking at the plot there are three stories linked to each other that take place in three different parts of the world: Morocco, Tokyo and the border between the U.S.A. and Mexico. In Morocco, a couple of American tourists (Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett) are victims of an accidental shootout by two young local kids that were using the hunting rifle of his father, given as a present by a Japanese hunter (Koji Yakusho). The sons of this married couple are under the care of a Mexican babysitter (Adriana Barraza) who had to go to Mexico with them to attend the wedding of her nephew’s son (Gael García Bernal), who had to cross the border. And in Tokyo, we focus on the problems of a teenage student (Rinko Kikuchi), the daughter of the owner of the rifle of the story in Morocco, on establishing relationships with people, even in the sexual field, by her deaf-mute condition.

Each story of the film, taking the main topic of the 2000s cinema, is local but at the same time global for the universal sense it has. As the story of Morocco talks about the huge distance between the First World and the Third World (whose relationships seem only possible through violence), the U.S.A.-Mexico story shows racism and culture, as the conditions on the relationships between the two countries are shown on the border between these two North American nations. In the case of the Japanese plot, the communication barriers that exist between different worlds and countries can also be found among the common people, not only because of a disability that is symbolic but also because of the omnipresence of technology, making human relationships less human.

Because of this, the universal sense of the three stories that take place in Babel, can be established in other parts of the world. Taking Europe as an example, a small part of Russia, Serbia or even Turkey can be used to represent the Morocco perspective. Tokyo could be replaced by a great European metropolis e.g. London, Berlin, Milano, Paris or Barcelona. And the last one could take place, for example, between the Southern part and the Northern part of Italy, between two Balkan countries or between rural and urban areas. All of them are as global as it could be the story of Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942), in which we could see in each character the problems and attitude of each country directly or indirectly involved during the Second World War, with some of them trying to assist each other to solve a big problem. In this case, a lack of communication is the norm and in the following years, maybe until recent events, may still be the case.

In Babel, we can clearly see the lack of but also the possibility of communication as a basis of proper and broad relationships. Communication is essential to the integration of different peoples that need to mature, solve problems and to make possible what was impossible at the beginning.  AEGEE members who may have already seen the film have recognised that reality and have started working on new projects that changed the shape of the organisation to keep the dream alive. Despite the fact of the reduction of the number of locals, the economic problems and the increase of differences between European countries, the EU’s institutional crisis or the radicalisation of political and social positions, it was necessary to work harder.

In this third part, it’s obvious that the Key to Europe project was brought closer by a computer and by the first smartphones. Everyone could talk and express their opinions and suggest real different ideas but not in the same way as before. In those strange times, some members could think about these questions in their personal area: are we really closer to each other? And what is my real identity? These questions required answering in the 2010s.