Messages from Paradise : Egypt-Austria

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Egypt-Vienna: The permanent longing for elsewhere
A documentary by Daniela Swarowsky and Samuli Schielke (A/Fi/NL)
Editing: Arthur Bueno (NL)
Release date 1 December 2008 in Cairo
Length appr. 50′

Messages from Paradise #1 is a documentary film about the permanent longing of people for ‘paradise on earth’ that is always located elsewhere.

“Vienna is a garden of paradise,” sang the Egyptian singer Asmahan once. Today more than ever, the West is an idealized projection site for the dreams of a frustrated young generation of Egyptians who, unlike their fathers and grandfathers, can only emigrate with great difficulty and at high personal risk. But the more difficult migration becomes, the stronger become also the dreams of wealth, success, and a full life in respect and freedom.

For all generations, migration is about the possibility to realise a better, happier life. But where can that better life be found? And wherein lies the happiness that so many people pursue in a ‘paradise on earth’ that always seems to be elsewhere?

Vienna is certainly not a garden of paradise. The plan to go to Europe, work hard for a few years and return rich does not work out for most of them. The lives of migrants are characterised by frustrating years of hard work, uncertainty, and homesickness. Many of them are desillusioned about their situation and long back to an idealized image of their home place. Yet most of them state that they also have gained things they now appreciate and don’t want to miss, like health care and good education for their children. But what they gained was often not what they dreamed about.

Messages from Paradise #2 is an attempt to bring these often unfulfilled dreams into contact with each other. The film follows on one side these young Egyptians who dream of a better life they hope to realize in the West and the strategies they develop to get there. On the other side, the film shows Egyptian migrants in Vienna, Austria, some of whom have arrived recently, while others live there since decades. From different perspectives, they tell about their great dreams, the disappointments, and the successes of migration. Their stories come together in a fictitious dialogue of questions, comments, critiques, and contemplations about migration as a dream and as an experience.

Supported by the Vienna Cultural Departement/Film,
the Austrian Cultural Forum Cairo and
Stichting Zenith in Motion.