‘Europa’ Director Sudabeh Mortezai on How the Film Explores the Disconnect Between Corporate ‘Wokewashing’ and Neoliberal Exploitation

‘Europa’ Director Sudabeh Mortezai on How the Film Explores the Disconnect Between Corporate ‘Wokewashing’ and Neoliberal Exploitation

In Sudabeh Mortezai’s provocative fifth feature, “Europa,” the Vienna-based director follows ambitious executive Beate from Europa, a mysterious corporation looking to expand into the Balkans by seemingly promoting philanthropy and investment in underdeveloped areas. What Europa actually needs is to buy land from the locals in a remote Albanian valley. The film plays in Competition at the Sarajevo Film Festival.

Mortezai can’t exactly pinpoint the genesis of “Europa” to a specific idea or moment, but says it’s rather an amalgamation of observations she’s made over time and her own interest in the general state of our world. “I’ve been observing or experiencing a disconnect between the ideals we have. And Europe is not just a continent. It’s a promise of human rights, of specific values,” she says. “And when you see a disconnect between that and many aspects like income, social inequality, economic inequality, it makes you wonder.”

Beyond this disconnect, Mortezai is also critical of the many forms of exploitation – including gender equality, female empowerment and diversity – which, according to her, our “whole lifestyle” and our “modern privileged society” are based on. “Of course, the empowerment of women and providing youth with a bright future are very important issues, but it’s interesting to see how they are used in the corporate world nowadays; how having diversity and feminism has almost become ‘wokewashing.’ That’s what I’m critical of,” she explains.

Mortezai also denounces a reality where someone has to pay the price of neoliberalism, or do the corporations’ dirty work. “Here is a dilemma in our way of life. We need to use up a lot of resources. We need exploitation as a system to maintain our way of life. And someone has to pay the price. Some living being. And that’s nature, the planet we’re living on. It’s other people in poor countries,” she says.

Mortezai was looking for a country that is at a very specific time and place in its development or history, where there is a conflict between the past and the future. “I found Albania ideal to have a story set in this context,” she says.

The producers are Sudabeh Mortezai and Mehrdad Mortezai for Fratella Filmproduktion and Mike Goodridge for Good Chaos, with funds from the Austrian Film Institute, Vienna Film Fund, ORF and Film4.

Memento handles international sales.

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