Integration in Austria: “Vienna goes L.A.”

The developments surrounding the Occupy Movement showed the world the face of a powerful generation of Millennials. Technology allowed protesters to outcry their message to the world, offering an alternative story unlike the stereotype in most of the viewers’ minds.


A short film changes everything

Searching for similar authentic stories told from the frontline, the film creator Robin Saban has inspired the project “Vienna goes L.A.”, an integration-focused project giving high school students the chance to bring their own personal stories to the screen.
Coming from a Kurd background himself, and having paved his way through the entertainment industry in Canada and the US, Saban initiated a series of film workshops in the Los Angeles Byzantine-Latino Quarter, a neighborhood characterized by poverty, criminality and currently rated 37 among L.A.’s 272 neighborhoods.
Meeting twice per week, Saban helped teens create their own films as a means of speaking out their problems. “The participants had difficulties integrating into the American society. Many of them didn’t know English”.
With the help of film school professors from USC and UCLA, teens produced more than 35 short films, mostly focused on social problems at school, at home, or surrounding topics such as racism, religions confrontations or sex. Participants were telling their own stories. One of them portrays the life of a boy, son to a Black father and Latin mother, finding no acceptance in either of those communities.


Together in Austria?

Today, having moved to Austria, Saban is now the visionary behind “Vienna goes L.A.” together with Ip Wischin, head of the Academy for Independent Filmmaking (Ifif) in Vienna. As an expert in drama and acting, educated in New York and having developed his career along the Austrian ORF and as an independent consultant, Wischin defends the thesis that good drama makes good films; and that good drama always has to do with portraying problems. Therefore, what a better way to portray the encountered problems surrounding integration in Austria than letting it be explained by the very youth experiencing it on a daily basis?

Many could agree that “Vienna goes L.A.” is serving as a platform for new Austrian teens to tell a different story about integration: a story unknown to a large part of the population, who may regard integration narrow mindedly. In the words of Chimamanda Ngozi, the single story surrounding people marked as immigrants “creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.


Integration, brought to you by me

Saban and others in his team could argue that “Vienna goes L.A.” is providing atypical and non-stereotype-conform insights that many viewers may perceive as new, shocking, or even outright politically incorrect – but real; short films presenting an unbiased, unfiltered and unplugged peek behind the scenes of integration. Welcome to the real world, brought to you by me.

Following the words of the late Whitney Houston (“I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way”), the Austrian teens of today might now have the chance to lead the way to a better integration of cultures, with the right technology and knowhow supported by professionals from the entertainment industry; yet, whether or not such a film project can pave the way to a new Spring in the integration efforts within the Western World, let alone within Austria, only time will tell.


Header Image(s) from Pixabay & Gratisography

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