Die Migrantigen [The Migrumpies] (2017)

Die Migrantigen
Director: Arman T. Riahi
Writer: Aleksandar Petrovic, Faris Rahoma, Arman T. Riahi
Cast: Aleksandar Petrovic, Faris Rahoma, Doris Schretzmayer, Zijah Sokolovic, Daniela Zacherl, Josef Hader, Mehmet Ali Salman, Julia Jelinek, Maddalena Hirschal, Margarete Tiesel, Dirk Stermann, Mahir Jahmal, Rainer Wöss, Brigitte Kren
Seen on: 5.7.2017

Benny (Faris Rahoma) and Marko (Aleksandar Petrovic) have been best friends for about forever and both find themselves struggling: Benny would like to make it as an actor, but has had no luck so far, mostly because he’s usually reduced to small roles due to his darker skin. And Marko’s ad agency just went bust – and his girlfriend Sophie (Daniela Zacherl) is expecting their first child. As they try to figure out what to do, an opportunity falls into their lap in the shape of Marlene (Doris Schretzmayer), a TV reporter looking to do a hot take on immigrants in Vienna. Just for the heck of it Benny and Marko – who actually do have migration roots – turn into Omar Sharif and Tito to give Marlene all the clichés about immigrants roled into a neat little package. But when Marlene returns with the offer to do an entire reality TV show about them, the two find themselves trapped in their performance and enticed by the money and acting break it would mean for them.

Die Migrantigen is an entertaining film that nails quite a few very problematic things about the discourse on migrants in Austria in a very revealing, yet light-hearted way. Sometimes it’s a little too easy and sometimes its ideas are better than the execution, but mostly, it’s very enjoyable.

Die Migrantigen plays nicely with the various perceptions of migrants in Vienna. Foremost it looks how media – and through media, mainstream society – sees and portrays immigrants in Austria. Their repertoire of stereotypes is very small and they’re definitely not interested in expanding it. So the idea that the most clichéd and overwrought characters – Omar Sharif and Tito – aren’t actually real, never enters the reporter’s mind: isn’t that just the story they were looking for? Isn’t that the story we all know to be true.

So, as Benny and Marko stumble through the world of Omar Sharif and Tito, a world filled with petty criminality and shady deals and a whole lot of running their mouths, without actually knowing a thing about any of this (except maybe the last point), it should be painfully obvious to onlookers that they can’t be for real. But reporters and audience both seem willing to ignore everything that doesn’t confirm what they think they already know.

It’s a clever device to tell the story. Even more cleverly, though, Riahi includes the reaction of the community of migrants who are much closer to the reality that Benny and Marko fake, who – as one can imagine – don’t approve: they all feel missrepresented. Some fear the reactions that this negative portrayal must provoke when they’re just trying to live a good life, others like Jewel (perfectly portrayed by Mehmet Ali Salman) feel imitated and made fun of.

With all of that working for the film, plus some nice cameos, there were still a couple of things that got in the way of me giving the film full marks. For one, there was the portrayal of the women in the film – for one, there barely are any (and if I remember correctly, not one gets migration history), and the few there are feel way flatter than the male characters. Sometimes, too, the film lacks a little complexity when it comes to the media: yes, there is a lot of media programs that just doesn’t give a damn as long as the numbers are right. But there are also issues with programs that really try to do things right – and I would have loved it if we had gotten a bit more of that perspective.

Despite those weaknesses, I enjoyed myself. And it’s definitely a good thing that we get stories like the one this film tells, especially when it’s from a director who has experience with migration as well.

Summarizing: Give it a try, it’s fun.

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