Virtually demolishing the existing boundaries between dramatic and nonfiction filmmaking, “Welcome Europa” makes the audience believe the film is a work of fiction — and then wish that it were so. Pic’s subject matter, which includes immigration and prostitution in contemporary Europe, will preclude massive B.O., but there has to be a market for a film as immediate, urgent and cinematic as Bruno Ulmer’s hybrid docu.
Following eight men — Kurdish, Moroccan and Romanian — as they try to survive in Amsterdam, Paris, Madrid and Seville, Ulmer locates rhythms and imagery that fully reflect, embody and are shaped by the subjects’ stories. Sleeping in boxes, struggling just to stay clean, the men, of various ages, are citizens of nowhere. They have no rights, no homes, little chance of work and, ultimately, a vanishing sense of self.
Among the untenable dilemmas faced by Ulmer’s subjects include a Muslim having to have sex with European men to support himself, even though his religion forbids same-sex relations. The men are invisible, except to the police. And inasmuch as they lead secretive, scuttling existences, the intimacy they share with Ulmer is all the more impressive.
The director intercuts verite street scenes involving one or more of the subjects with head-on portraits, in which each subject, including a 16-year-old Moroccan and a seasoned Kurdish political activist, tells his own story. The camera work and the look of the film is highly textured and expertly shot, but always in service of the stories, for which there are no ready solutions, but plenty of tears.