I spent an hour or so last night putting together this first-ever Youtube video mashup I’ve done, taking the German trailer for Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others) and adding subtitles in English – only the subtitles are about UK civil liberties issues in 2009. The idea comes from the famous Downfall mashups, but using an alternative German film instead, and also conscious that most UK viewers will not necessarily follow the German. If you do understand both languages there are additional subtleties…
For those have not seen it, Das Leben der Anderen / The Lives of Others is an award winning film about Stasi Germany, where the Stasi are keeping tabs on an playwright suspected of western sympathies, and the main Stasi official eventually sides with the playwright. More details about the film can be found at Wikipedia.
But why now, and why the mashup?
Firstly, I recently visited Hohenschönhausen Prison in Berlin, featured in the movie (although scenes were not actually shot there). This builds on a long interest in Germany, German unification, my time living in Berlin in 2001 / 2002, and also the excellent book Stasiland by Anna Funder.
Secondly, in the UK anti-terror billboards have started to appear, urging you to snoop on your neighbours if they are disposing of chemicals or looking at CCTV cameras. I’ve posted about the billboards here, and there’s a billboard slogan generator here. Seeing one of these billboards at Tufnell Park tube station yesterday pushed me to act…
Thirdly, there has been recent coverage in the press of rather heavy handed police methods when it comes to security in London. An Austrian tourist had pictures deleted from his digital camera for taking pictures of Vauxhall Bus Station, and a member of protest group Plane Stupid was offered cash by Strathclyde Police. This follows increased surveillance of environmental groups, and the controversy over 42 terror detention and the UK losing a case at the European Court of Human Rights over DNA data retention. All these stories are one way or another featured in the subtitles.
The United Kingdom is a fascinating country.
It says no to the most modern human rights document available, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. There has never been a full, fair and rational discussion about the reasons for this opt-out, or why British subjects need to be protected against civil rights, when citizens of other European countries appreciate protection of theirs.
But Britain managed to position itself beyond the pale, together with the fundamentalist twins of Polish politics.
(With four opt-outs from the Lisbon Treaty, Britain is not even in the slipstream of Europe.)
The UK then feels the need for a national Bill of Rights, but the whole discussion is conducted as if neither the EU nor the Charter existed.
Elsewhere in Europe, fundamental rights are seen and discussed as universal, with the EU as the natural frame of reference for discussion for protection.