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IDFA 2020: Here We Move Here We Groove

24 November 2020

And the Beat goes on?                             Sergej Kreso's Here we move, Here We Groove

Between 2008 and 2010 Balkan Beats cut a musical swathe across the dance floors of Europe, from Sarajevo to Amsterdam, from London to Berlin. Bosnian Robert Soko was its founder and godfather, fusing traditional music from former Yugoslavia with Western techno, disco and hip-hop to send a generation of clubbers into paroxysms of pop pleasure.

But a decade on, Berlin-based Soko is at a crossroads. Balkan Beats doesn't quite have the cachet it once had, and the former DJ no longer finds the idea of performing to dwindling audiences particularly stimulating.

He does recognise, however, the same socio and geo-economic conditions that applied when he arrived in Germany in the early millennium, such as mass migration, economic uncertainty and existential questions over identity. He vows therefore once more to invent a music appropriate to the age, this time incorporating the talents and skills of his new migrant friends.

Sergej Kreso's Here we move, Here We Groove, supported by the Netherlands Film Fund, is selected for IDFA 2020 Dutch Competition.

"Robert Soko is in some way my soul mate with whom I have a lot in common," says director Kreso, also from Bosnia but a citizen of The Netherlands for almost two decades. "The changes that have marked our lives have been largely parallel. We were both born in a country that no longer exists, Yugoslavia. Robert, like me, is a child of a 'mixed' family, of parents from different ethnic groups. As a result, we were brought up in a multicultural setting where dealing with different cultures and different customs was a regular part of the daily routine."

"The war that split Yugoslavia in the 1990's has had a tremendous impact on our identity and existence. Raised as Yugoslavs, we had to choose a new identity at a time. We became refugees, migrants, and later Germans and Dutch," he underlines.

The film plays out between Soko's Berlin (where he lives in the multicultural Kreuzberg area with his French/Algerian wife and two-year-old daughter) and Bosnia, to which he returns during the film for the first time in decades. (We are also shown evocative clips from landmark films from the Balkans, such as Emir Kusturica's Black Cat, White Cat and Underground.)

In both Berlin and Bosnia he gathers talented musicians, some of whom are refugees, male and female alike, such as Rafi from Palestine, the Syrian Abdallah and Amelia from Greece, to create and improvise new sounds using both voice and instrument. In Bosnia he also meets the irrepressible teenage rapper Ferdows, from Afghanistan, who is determined to find a way to Berlin to continue on his musical path.

At a time when many commentators and exponents rail against cultural appropriation, Soko takes an altogether different line and advocates an attitude of integration, or "cultural recycling," as he refers to it in the film.

The theme of communication continues through to the film's conclusion, as Soko voices his frustration at his wife and daughter speaking in French and Arab within the house, which he feels excluded by. It is a dilemma that Kreso found both fascinating and instructive.

"To make music with musicians from six different countries, from six different cultures, can be a richness but it demands a lot of effort in how to communicate," the director explains. "Robert's personal life is just like his music - one big cultural mishmash. At his home, living with a French-Algerian woman, but also on the streets of Kreuzberg, Berlin's district where more than 180 nationalities live together, Robert is forced to look for a way to communicate with others. As he says, 'Music as well as human communication is doomed to a constant search for a language. You ask yourself constantly, what languages do we have to use in order to understand each other?'"

For further reading: 
-> SEE NL Magazine Online, November 2020 / IDFA Doc issue 
-> Line-Up Dutch Docs At IDFA 2020 
-> Watch: Showreel Dutch Documentaries IDFA 2020

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