The Return of Frontiers

The former Schengen border, 10 years on
Documentary film, 52 min., ARTE

“The Return of Frontiers” tells the story of an incredible historical U-turn: the old iron curtain separating East from West, believed to have disappeared for good with the expansion of the Schengen area, is resurfacing throughout the continent to protect North from South. From the fall of the wall to the present day, taking in the successive enlargements of the European Union, the film examines the eventful lives of six border residents who reinvent their lives in a space without barriers only to be plunged back into a world of barricades in the summer of 2015. In a production combining original archives, footage filmed in 2017 and an innovative use of cartography, the film provides a striking account of the resurgence of borders from the perspective of six border residents confronted with barbed wire fences by the vagaries of geopolitics.

On 21 December 2007, less than 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, The European Union opened its free trade area to eight countries of the former Soviet bloc, rendering obsolete the 3,000 km border corresponding to the great geopolitical fault line of the 20th century, embodied by the Sudetes, the westward shift of Poland, the ideological division of the world.

As a direct result of the opening of this border, almost 400 checkpoints in the heart of Europe were destroyed, or sold by the states that owned them to private individuals or local communities. In an irony of history, these facilities – which, as bulwarks of the iron curtain and then of the Schengen area, had served to control the movements of thousands of people every day – now stood as if stranded in the middle of roads, emptied of their substance, for sale, transformed into casinos or swimming pool shops.
For many Europeans, particularly in the Union’s eastern regions, the opening of the borders in 2007 was met with great optimism. The process of integration seemed to have no limits. The border, with everything it had represented – control, illegality, a sense of humiliation – was to become nothing more than a painful and distant memory in the minds of millions of people.

“It is a familiar feeling, yes… Demarcation… restrictions… once again, an obstacle placed in my path within the Schengen Area. “

Then, in the summer of 2015, the highly publicised arrival in Europe of refugees fleeing conflicts in the Near and Middle East changed everything, exposing just how fragile such a balance can be. Hungary surrounded itself with barbed wire, the Austrian military was mobilised, and borders re-emerged within the Schengen Area. Just when border posts were thought to be a thing of the past, events showed how, in these historically charged regions, everything can change at any moment. Border controls are once again becoming widespread, seemingly spelling the end of the Schengen Area.

“The Return of Frontiers” tells the story of an incredible historical U-turn: the old iron curtain separating East from West, believed to have disappeared for good with the expansion of the Schengen area, is resurfacing throughout the continent to protect North from South. From the fall of the wall to the present day, taking in the successive enlargements of the European Union, the film examines the eventful lives of six border residents who reinvent their lives in a space without barriers only to be plunged back into a world of barricades in the summer of 2015. In a production combining original archives, footage filmed in 2017 and an innovative use of cartography, the film provides a striking account of the resurgence of borders from the perspective of six border residents confronted with barbed wire fences by the vagaries of geopolitics.

On 21 December 2007, less than 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, The European Union opened its free trade area to eight countries of the former Soviet bloc, rendering obsolete the 3,000 km border corresponding to the great geopolitical fault line of the 20th century, embodied by the Sudetes, the westward shift of Poland, the ideological division of the world. As a direct result of the opening of this border, almost 400 checkpoints in the heart of Europe were destroyed, or sold by the states that owned them to private individuals or local communities. 

In an irony of history, these facilities – which, as bulwarks of the iron curtain and then of the Schengen area, had served to control the movements of thousands of people every day – now stood as if stranded in the middle of roads, emptied of their substance, for sale, transformed into casinos or swimming pool shops.
For many Europeans, particularly in the Union’s eastern regions, the opening of the borders in 2007 was met with great optimism. The process of integration seemed to have no limits. The border, with everything it had represented – control, illegality, a sense of humiliation – was to become nothing more than a painful and distant memory in the minds of millions of people.

“It is a familiar feeling, yes… Demarcation… restrictions… once again, an obstacle placed in my path within the Schengen Area“

Then, in the summer of 2015, the highly publicised arrival in Europe of refugees fleeing conflicts in the Near and Middle East changed everything, exposing just how fragile such a balance can be. Hungary surrounded itself with barbed wire, the Austrian military was mobilised, and borders re-emerged within the Schengen Area. Just when border posts were thought to be a thing of the past, events showed how, in these historically charged regions, everything can change at any moment. Border controls are once again becoming widespread, seemingly spelling the end of the Schengen Area.

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FRONTIER SURVEY

Digital library (2007)

THE BARRIERS WITHIN

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The Return of Frontiers

Year: 2018 | Duration: : 52 minutes | Versions: FR and DE|  Subtitles: IT, PL, ENG, ES | Languages: D, EN, CS, I | Production: Ladybirds films & Arte in collaboration withLabo M | Script direction: Simon Brunel et Nicolas Pannetier | Camera: Raphaël O’ Byrne | Sound : Henri Maikoff | Editing : Nathalie Plicot assited by Édouard Lenormand | Music: Nicolas Pannetier

On the same theme :

Digital library (2011)

Film documentaire (2009)

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