Paul Poet | Austria | 90 min. | video | 2002 | Canadian Premiere | Featuring Christoph Schlingensief, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Einstürzende Neubauten
In the summer of 2000, German provocateur Christoph Schlingensief set up a refugee camp in front of the Viennese Opera House. He interned twelve actual refugee applicants in a large shipping container and streamed their life over the web for the week. As in any 'reality TV' show, the audience was allowed to vote their least favourite player out of the compound - and, in this case, out of the country.
Crowned by a banner with the phrase "Ausländer Raus!" ('foreigners out') on it, the container became a national flashpoint - hundreds of Austrians converged on the square and 800,000 others logged on to the website to cast their ballots. Schlingensief (dubbed 'the German bad-tastemeister' by Variety) served as the ringmaster, watching bemusedly as people of every stripe shed their demure exteriors and let fly their inner prejudices. Jorg Haider's extreme right Freedom Party funneled their consternation through the press - it's never clear if they were insulted because they were being taunted or because somebody else thought of the idea first. The hippie left reacted en masse, storming the container and 'liberating' those inside during their weekly Anti-Haider demonstration.
Paul Poet designed the website and documented the action from its inception to its logical conclusion. Poet's resulting documentary covers the bases - from the use of art as a political challenge, to the concept of national embarrassment in the face of a civilised world, to the shit-disturbing narcissism of Schlingensief himself.