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Apolena Rychlíková • Réalisatrice de Limits of Europe

“L'intérêt principal pour moi, et Sasha, était de rendre visibles ces gens invisibles, au moins pendant 98 minutes”


- La réalisatrice tchèque nous parle de son film, conçu en collaboration étroite avec son personnage principal, qui fait le jour sur les conditions de travail des travailleurs immigrés en Europe

Apolena Rychlíková  • Réalisatrice de Limits of Europe

Cet article est disponible en anglais.

Cineuropa got the chance to talk to Apolena Rychlíková, a journalist and filmmaker whose most recent effort, Limits of Europe [+lire aussi :
interview : Apolena Rychlíková
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, which screened at both CPH:DOX and the One World Festival in Prague, traces the labour conditions of Eastern European migrant workers on a vegetable farm in Germany, in an Irish hotel and in a caregivers’ agency in France. The protagonist is journalist Sasha Uhlova, who gets herself hired within all of these facilities, and who previously worked with Rychlíková on the documentary Czech Journal: The Limits of Work [+lire aussi :
fiche film

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Cineuropa: After watching Limits of Europe, I decided to put a “do not disturb” sign on my hotel-room door, as I didn’t want to give the cleaning personnel extra work, seeing how stressed and overwhelmed they are in your film. Was the general public your target group, in order to make us aware about the situation of these workers?
Apolena Rychlíková:
The main interest for me and Sasha was to make those invisible people visible – at least for 98 minutes. And maybe for longer, as you say. But when I'm making films, I'm not able to imagine what will come next. So, I'm also not able to imagine how, or if, I will be able to influence the general public. The main motivation was just telling the stories of people who aren't heard as much.

You chose to tell their story through the eyes of a fellow journalist. How did you meet Sasha and come up with the idea to make a documentary using “gonzo-style journalism”?
We met more than ten years ago on a kind of demonstration. She had to leave to pick up her kids from the nursery. She asked me to write an article about the demonstration, so I did, and it was a really successful one. From that point on, I decided to write something from time to time, and I became a journalist. Sometime around 2017, Sasha told me she was working on a story focused on the working conditions and wages of low-income employees in the Czech Republic. I suggested to her that I would make a film about this. She agreed and wrote a series of articles called The Heroes of Capitalist Labour, and I made the documentary The Limits of Work. That was our first collaboration. Since then, more journalists have started to look at how the underprivileged are living.

Is Limits of Europe a sequel in a way, then?
It wasn’t intended that way. After the series of Sasha’s articles and my film, we started a huge discussion and decided to go abroad to make a story about migrants. Sasha wrote a string of articles, and I made a film. It was all happening at the same time: I was shooting her doing all these jobs, and she wrote her articles later – it wasn’t like I made my film according to what she was writing.

Sasha wears glasses with a hidden camera – this is how you get most of your footage. Some of the workers’ faces are blurred, while others aren’t. Was it difficult to convince people to agree to be shown in the film?
Some things were very clear from the beginning: for example, we knew we didn’t want to show the clients Sasha had while doing her caregiving job in France. In Ireland, she met mostly Slovaks – we used to share the same country, so she told them who she was and why she was there. The most difficult situation was on the farm in Germany, as some of them knew that Sasha was a journalist. We contacted the rest through Facebook and so on. When we edited the film, we changed all of their names and mixed up some of the stories. Every time you see somebody, it’s not the person Sasha is talking about in her diary. We really thought about the ethics of it in many different ways.

Sasha thinks that once the owner of the hotel in Ireland has found out she is a journalist, that makes him treat his staff better. Do you know about any positive changes that your film has already brought about?
Not yet. The world premiere was at CPH:DOX in mid-March. The screening at One World came after those in Copenhagen and Geneva. And it’s the first time we have shown it in the Czech Republic. When we made our previous project, we really were able to change something. But now we are talking about international conditions and workers, plus we are not from those countries that are in the film. It is really hard to change things. But at least the movie was also co-produced by ARTE, and we had a French co-producer as well. So, we hope that if we are able to go to some German or French or Irish film festival, for example, the impact might be better or bigger.  

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