The Austrian government plans to put up fences near the Brenner Pass in order to prevent the massive inflow of refugees. But the expected horde of migrants fails to arrive, and the locals have their own ideas on the matter. With his distinctive, observing style, Austrian filmmaker Nikolaus Geyrhalter (Our Daily Bread) reveals the gap between political perception and reality against the backdrop of rising populism in Europe.
The Balkan Route was closed in 2016 following a change in the European refugee policy. The Austrian government feared that, as a consequence, large numbers of migrants would enter the country from Italy. In order to stop this inflow, the authorities conceived ‘building measures’ to protect the Austrian population against the evil world outside. In plain terms: a fence.
Geyrhalter carefully and without judgment registers how the local population assesses the plans. He talks to police officers, hikers, farmers, café owners and toll chargers to draw a unique portrait of the people of Tyrol and their traditions. While populist politicians engage in hate-mongering on television, explaining how creepy migrants will irreparably change the country in just a few weeks, a local farmer compellingly exposes the absurdity of the matter: ‘It is schizophrenic and deeply tragic to fear people that have fled war and violence. These are not usually the people one has to be afraid of.’