“Three Films About Everyday (Migrant) Activism”
“Three Films About Everyday (Migrant) Activism”

“Three Films About Everyday (Migrant) Activism”

Please join us for the screening of three short films and a discussion about everyday (migrant) activism within Decolonial Dialogues@Humanities at VOC-room, University of Amsterdam, at 6pm on 16 March 2023. Together withVISION’s Piotr Goldstein, (co)creator of the three films, we will talk about what activism is. Does it only happen in organizations and movements? Does all activism make sense? Who can become an activist? Who are ‘professional activists’, and who will never be ‘socially active’? Finally, how can we decolonise the ways in which we research, think, and talk about activism?

We will see and discuss three films:

‘Active (citizen)’ – Piotr Goldstein & Jan Lorenz, 2019, 30 min.

‘Active (Citizen)’ is an intimate look at the life and work of a Roma refugee from Kosovo collecting trash on the streets of Novi Sad, Serbia. It is a visual ethnography focused on the material, sensorial and kinaesthetic realities of the protagonist’s work and his ‘everyday activism’ beyond the scope of public recognition.

This 30-minute film, like the other films we will watch, is part of a larger research project on the ‘invisible activism’ of ethnic minorities and migrants who engage for causes beyond those important for their own community. Such activism is invisible because it happens outside any minority or migrant community structures (typical point of access for researchers and media) and because at times, it takes forms which, compared to the activism of those who can afford more grand forms of engagement, seems insignificant. The film approaches the question of affordability of activism as it is conceptualised by us – privileged middle-class academics and activists.

The film was screened at over 25 film festivals, conferences, workshops, and screenings in community centres around the world. It won awards for the Best Short Documentary at the Capital Filmmakers Festival in Berlin (2021), the Best Environmental Film at the Jahorina Film Festival in Bosnia and Herzegovina (2021), and a special award at the Green Montenegro International Film Festival (2021).

‘Spółdzielnia/Cooperative’ – Piotr Goldstein, 2021, 26 min.

This film is a visual ethnography portraying the everyday work of a socially engaged cooperative in Manchester, UK, which in the quest to protect the environment, sells organic, fair-trade coffee from a self-made bicycle-trailer, and which is run mainly by Polish migrants. The film approaches three key themes. Firstly, it explores the field of everyday activism – the type of activism which happens not in NGOs or protest movements, but rather in everyday engagements, including in social businesses where the balance between activism and moneymaking is continuously confronted and negotiated. Secondly, it looks at migrant activism for causes completely detached from migrant-group advocacy or interests. Finally, it portrays a Polish community that exists in parallel to the formal ‘Polish Community’ epitomised by the Polish church, Saturday school, etc. and is in many ways very different from that community. Recorded over five years of participant observation, the film is also a story of placemaking, belonging and affirming social citizenship in a new country. 

‘Doggy Bag’ – Phaedra Douzina-Bakalaki & Piotr Goldstein, 2023, 13 min.

‘Doggy Bag’ is a short ethnographic video étude about an initiative to feed and take care of stray dogs and other animals in and around Thessaloniki, Greece. The film is meant to stimulate discussions about activism, transnational engagement (particularly coming from the West eastwards), forms of social engagement and human-animal relations.here.

About Piotr Goldstein

VISION’s postdoc, Piotr Goldstein, works at the intersection of social and visual anthropology, sociology and political science. He received his PhD from the University of Manchester and holds a Master’s in International Peace Work from the University of Trieste and a Master’s in Philosophy from the University of Lodz. Currently, he works at the German Centre for Integration and Migration Research (DeZIM) and at the Centre for East European and International Studies (ZOiS), both in Berlin. At DeZIM, he works in the team of VISION Project where he is responsible for visual and sensory research and outputs, while at ZOiS, he works in the MOBILISE Project and heads projects on Invisible Migrant Activism and Everyday Activism. He is the author of an article about activist citizenship in bookshop-cafés in Serbia, other articles and essays, and ethnographic documentaries he creates as part of his research.

The entry is free and the facebook event for this triple screening and discussion can be found here.