‘Europe’ is a concept that embraces many ideas about national and regional identities. In the UK, we think we recognise ‘Western Europe’ and regions such as Scandinavia or the Balkans, but what does ‘Central Europe’ mean to us?
Up until the First World War and the re-drawing of maps, ‘Central Europe’ was subsumed in the empires of Austro-Hungary, Germany and Russia. The region produced some of the world’s great filmmakers, alongside writers and musicians, before Nazi occupation and the Cold War had their impact on cultural life. Now that Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Germany are back together in Europe, it seems a good time to reassess ‘Central European Cinema’ and to explore its future and its past. We’ll discover that there are no strict definitions of Central Europe and little agreement about how to study the film cultures of the region. It would be wrong to deny the unique identities of the various countries each with their own film cultures, but it is also worth emphasising that boundaries (geographical and cultural) have shifted many times over the last century and there is a common experience of several important events across the region. Two of these are the persecution of the Jewish community culminating in the Holocaust in 1943-5 and the experience of Soviet domination during the cold War.