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The Soul of Europe’s Great Cities

Amsterdam, The Great Laboratory

Amsterdam, The Great Laboratory

Airing times

Presentation:

Eurochannel is proud to take you on a trip across Europe via its most interesting cities. From the blustery cold of Helsinki to the enchanting mystique of Vienna, The Soul of Europe’s Great Cities takes you on a grand tour through Europe’s most famed cities alongside a team of renowned journalists.

The histories of European cities are full of secrets and mysteries: Now, hear these stories straight from the people who have lived their lives amidst the quaint cafes of Amsterdam, the romantic channels of Vienna, and the mysterious Gdansk. Walk the ancient, magical streets of Europe in the footsteps of her local people.

Amsterdam, The Great Laboratory (2002)
Netherlands

Director: Richard Puech

Synopsis:

Drugs, prostitution, gay marriage and even euthanasia: What do they have in common? All of these things, though outlawed elsewhere in Europe, are organized, monetized, and even legal in Holland. With an open spirit and legendary pragmatism, this country has pushed boundaries that the rest of the world dares not even approach. Guided by Dutch writer Peter Brusse, we look at how these audacious laws are implemented, and then assessed, both for their innovations and their failures.

We visit sex clubs and the back room of a cannabis coffee shop, and attend a homosexual wedding, all while showing how these unique laws can exist in Holland and nowhere else. Holland’s is a Calvinist spirit, characterized by rigorous pragmatism, an all-encompassing regulatory system, and an overwhelming love of free thought and open trade, no matter who comes calling to port. Some see Amsterdam as a den of vice where everything is permitted. Others believe the "Dutch exception" may well be sketching the shape of the Europe of the future: transforming the whole continent into a world of fairness, tolerance and efficiency.

Four of Amsterdam’s Best Kept Secrets

Vienna

Vienna, World Citizen (2002)
Austria

Director: Jean-Christophe Klotz

Synopsis:

Austria is a nation in turmoil. It all began with the rise of Jorg Haider’s far-right party. Then came the Waldheim affair, when the former president and secretary general of the UN was outed as a former Nazi. These twin scandals shook the very foundations of Austria. Now, once again, the world’s democratic nations are pointing the finger at Austria, calling it the “shame at the heart of Europe.”

In order to explore the nature of this volatile history, and throw Austria’s growing discontent into the spotlight, actor Hubsi Kramer created a worldwide scandal when he appeared at Vienna’s Opera Ball dressed as Hitler. Two years after that scandal, Vienna elected a Socialist mayor. In an effort to exorcise its historical demons, the city of Vienna has united in an effort to return to its roots as a prestigious, cosmopolitan city. This 2002 special explores the true Vienna, a hub of intellectuals, artists, and culture that refuses to be defined by a dark past.

Madrid

Madrilenian Nights (2002)
Spain

Director: Franck Duprat

Synopsis:

Madrid is a wild, young city that only comes alive when the sun goes down. Spain's capital has two distinct faces: one for the day and one for the night. From Thursday night until Sunday morning, thousands of young people turn the city into one big, open-air party. It's called the “Botellon”: the "binge." Madrilenians with deep pocketbooks go bar hopping from dusk until dawn. Many of them head to Latino bars and night clubs, where the party undulates to the Caribbean beat. The Cuban owner of a combination restaurant/night club leads us through the streets of the Spanish capital's hippest neighbourhood: Chueca, home to the biggest parties, the most beautiful people, and the city’s largest gay community.

Our tour guide introduces us to the Madrid of night owls, and the Madrid of the immigrants, most of whom are Latin American and Moroccan. Latinos speak the same language and practice the same religion as Spaniards, but the North Africans have a much harder time fitting in. Naima, a Spanish attorney of Moroccan origin, gives us a tour of Lavapiés, Madrid's Arab quarter, and introduces us to the racist side of Spain, which stubbornly resists anything and everyone who is "different." The film leads the viewer on a cultural and social journey, taking a close-up look at the customs and trends that are shaping the new Madrid at the dawn of the 21st century.

Madrid

White Nights in Saint Petersburg (2005)

Director: Philippe Lagnier

Saint Petersburg springs back to life in the month of June, after a long winter in hibernation. The city bubbles with Russian flavored exuberance. Our film follows three different people over the course of one White Night. We start with Serguei, who works at the drawbridge at the heart of the city. For the past 25 years, when the river is open to traffic, Serguei has spent his nights operating the bridge that spans the Neva River, which cuts the city in half. Foreign tourists come to watch the show, as Russia's nouveaux riches show off their luxury speedboats. Maria is a typical member of St. Petersburg's intelligentsia, cultured and distinguished. The night we visit, Maria throws a costume ball in an imperial palace. Finally we meet Yuri, a police sergeant for whom the White Nights are a dreaded chore. Yuri and his night patrol take us into the heart of St. Petersburg's lower class neighbourhoods, where residents drink and brawl more than is good for them. Serguei, Yuri and Maria recount a social tale woven against the backdrop of St. Petersburg's famous White Nights.

Madrid

Gdansk: moving towards integration (2002)

Director: Gonzalo Arijon

Gdansk - with its wide mixing of peoples over the centuries, its strong past as a "free port" and "open city," its current social, economic, cultural and political situation - is a perfect example of the hopes and fears raised by the "new Europeans." Pawel Huelle, one of Poland's most respected contemporary writers, leads us on a journey through the city's past, helping us understand the current and future stakes for Gdansk. Huelle and old friend Donald Tuck, a descendant of one of Gdansk's oldest families share their descriptions of the "real soul" of Gdansk.

helsinki Helsinki, In the Shadow of the Great Bear (2002)

Director: Frédéric Brunnquell

No fires smolder beneath Finland's icy terrain. The country's five million inhabitants thrive in an independent and peaceful existence. Helsinki, its capital, is fast making its mark in both the multimedia and music industries. To fully understand this country and its people, we have to nudge them towards the little thorn in their side: their next-door neighbor, Russia. Filmmaker Mika Kaurismäki takes us on a special tour of the bar he opened with his brother Aki: the Moskva Bar. Its patrons welcome in the small hours listening to speeches by Brezhnev. The Leningrad Cowboys explain, with a heavy dose of irony, how they freed Finns from Cold War induced anxiety. Had neighboring Russia had been a normal democratic state, would Finland have been able to reinforce its own culture? Why Finns are simultaneously intrigued and repelled by their Russian ties?

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